January 28, 2013

#LMranks: No. 5 Johns Hopkins Blue Jays (Men)

by Matt Forman | LaxMagazine.com | Team Page/Schedule

Sophomore Wells Stanwick, younger brother of Steele, will be Johns Hopkins' third attackman this season alongside Zach Palmer and Brandon Benn.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

Lacrosse Magazine is counting down its preseason rankings throughout the month of January exclusively on LaxMagazine.com.

Today continues a look at our NCAA Division I Top 20 rankings. For more, visit LaxMagazine.com/LMranks. Follow @LacrosseMag on Twitter and Tweet using the hashtag #LMranks. The countdown will resume Tuesday with profiles of the fourth-ranked teams in NCAA Division I men and women.

Power Ratings

Offense: 3*
Defense: 4
Goalkeeping: 4
Faceoff: 4
* Out of 5

Top Returner

D Tucker Durkin (Sr.)
The reigning USILA defenseman of the year, Durkin's best attribute is his willingness to prepare. Durkin dominates his 1-on-1 matchups, but coach Dave Pietramala has been impressed with his leadership. "Now he's a much more vocal and verbal guy on the field," Pietramala said. "Talking to Tucker is probably a lot like talking to me. That's what we need out on the field."


A Wells Stanwick (So.)
Stanwick, Tewaaraton winner Steele's younger brother, started four games as a freshman in 2012. Now he will step into the third attack spot vacated by Chris Boland, running point alongside Canadian attackmen Zach Palmer and Brandon Benn. Stanwick initiating from behind and relying on two-man games at X could help free space for Hopkins' downhill-dodging middies.

What's New?

Pietramala streamlined the fall and spring practice schedules by one week each, in hopes that Hopkins will peak at the end of May. "We're hoping that we'll get that week back — we need to extend the season by a week and two days — when we'll be physically and mentally in a better place," he said.

What's Not?

Although the Blue Jays moved into their new 15,000 square foot facility that sits on the Southeast side of Homewood Field, they still have a clock on the wall outside the locker room that counts down the days, hours, minutes and seconds until faceoff against their next opponent — though on this one, the opposing school is digitally displayed.

2012 Recap

Record: 12-4 (Independent)

In a Nutshell: Johns Hopkins opened the season 8-0, rushing to an undefeated record through the end of March and earning the nation's No. 1 ranking. The early-season slate included victories against Princeton and Syracuse, the latter of which snapped a five-game losing streak, as well as program bugaboo Virginia, which Hopkins beat in Charlottesville for the first time since 1998. Just when it looked like the Blue Jays would be the team to beat in May, they lost three of their next four games and dropped back to reality. They came out cold against North Carolina in the Big City Classic, were held to just one goal in the second half against Maryland, then fell flat against Navy. A resume-building defeat of Loyola rewarded Hopkins with the second seed in the NCAA tournament, but it also meant a date with Maryland in the quarterfinals, where for the third time in four years, Hopkins was handed an early exit from postseason play.

High Point: The 11-10 upset of then-No. 1 Virginia "got the monkey off" Hopkins' back, as Pietramala said. The Blue Jays went toe-to-toe with the reigning national champions and won at Klockner Stadium, which has always proven a tough task, in a crazy, up-and-down thriller. With the win, Hopkins was 8-0 and riding high. But nearly as significant was Hopkins' 10-9 overtime defeat of top-ranked Loyola, which eventually won the national championship. After back-to-back losses, Hopkins needed the emotional spark of upending its Charles Street rivals.

Low Point: The program standard at Hopkins is defined by postseason success, and the Blue Jays' 11-5 loss to Maryland in the NCAA quarterfinals secured a season that fell short of expectations — again. Hopkins had missed consecutive semifinals only twice in program history, but they've been home watching the last four semifinals. Meanwhile, the Blue Jays have lost those four elimination games by a combined score of 62-27. Maryland suffocated Hopkins' 6-on-6 offense, dominated the time-of-possession and wreaked havoc in the middle of the field. The Navy loss also was a low.

2013 Preview

#LMranks MD1 Preseason Countdown

No. 20 Bryant
No. 19 Hofstra
No. 18 Fairfield
No. 17 Villanova
No. 16 Yale
No. 15 Princeton
No. 14 Penn State
No. 13 UMass
No. 12 Syracuse

No. 11 Colgate
No. 10 Lehigh
No. 9 Virginia
No. 8 North Carolina
No. 7 Cornell
No. 6 Denver

Monday: No. 5 Johns Hopkins
Tuesday: No. 4
Wednesday: No. 3
Thursday: No. 2 and No. 1

More: Countdown schedule | WD1 | MD2 | WD2 | MD3 | WD3 | JuCo | MCLA | WCLA

Best Case: With an 11-member senior class and returning starters with experience at nearly every position, Johns Hopkins makes a deep postseason run and wins its first national championship since 2007. Wells Stanwick looks like brother Steele did as a sophomore, the midfield scoring slumps of 2012 become a thing of the past, and the defense rallies around All-Americans Durkin and goalie Pierce Bassett. Hopkins flips the scripts on recent campaigns: The Blue Jays lose a game or two early in March while getting acquainted with the new rules — as coach Dave Pietramala lets them push tempo more than they have in recent memory — but they're strongest in May, when Zach Palmer emerges as the hero.

Worst Case: The attack's inability to initiate with regularity becomes problematic, especially against tough defensive teams that don't feel like they need to slide to Zach Palmer, Brandon Benn and Wells Stanwick. In turn, the midfielders press and are responsible for creating, which again leads to Mendoza-line shooting percentages. Hopkins puts together another strong regular season, winning 12 games and securing a top seed in the NCAA tournament, but the Homewood faithful are disappointed by a third consecutive quarterfinal loss.

Inside Scoop

Coach Dave Pietramala's comments on...

D Tucker Durkin (Sr.)
"Tucker has turned the corner in his growth as a player. He has always been a very hard worker. You hear coaches say it all the time, 'He's our kind of guy.' Tucker is. Tucker has been a guy of few words. He has not been an overly vocal person. He has always kind of sat back and perused the situation and evaluated it, then reacted. He's been a guy who just shows up, punches the clock, does everything you ask him to do, and he goes and does his job in school, does his job socially, and then comes back the next day. I really get the sense now that he has taken that another step, and he understands as a captain the responsibility that the guys have laid on his shoulders. He still comes to work every day. But he's a much more vocal guy now. He's more vocal with me.

"He's much more comfortable in his own skin, and he really is excited about the opportunity he has, and the role he has been given by his teammates. Tucker was excited, and he performed that way, but he wouldn't be as forthright and outward with how he feels. He doesn't overreact to things. He wants to look at them, analyze them, evaluate them, and make a decision on them. Where, now, I think he's offering — he's not even offering — he's telling the guys how he feels how we should do things. He's been really different, which is really necessary for this team. You get the sense that Tucker, talking to him is probably like talking to me. That's exactly what it needs to be. He needs to be the extension of the coach out on the field. A year ago we didn't have that. We need his coach-like thought process. We needed better leadership there, and we needed more consistent leadership at a whole, and we needed more consistent performance as a whole."

M John Ranagan (Sr.)
"Like Tucker, John Ranagan has really been great, in a different way. When John Ranagan got here, I wouldn't see him in our study lounge on a Friday night at 8 o'clock studying. John Ranagan would've been your typical college kid, getting ready for Friday night. Here he is, in his senior year, on a Friday night at 8 o'clock in the study lounge working on a paper. I walk in and say, 'What are you doing here?' He says, 'I have a ton of work next week, so I'm just trying to get ahead of it.' John, on the field, has matured a lot too. Last year we felt like he was so worried about getting his job done, making sure he got his goals — not for John, but for the team. I think now John has lost himself in the team. He's really done a much better job offensively of letting the game come to him. We felt like, a year ago, he was really, really pressing. You could see it. At one point in time our top three guys were like 3-of-23. It was some ridiculous percentage, right at the start of the year, in the first three or four games. It was horrible. It went right up until the Syracuse game, that's when we started to break out. John was very much thinking, 'I gotta do this.' He was trying to make plays, make things happen, which isn't what we needed him to him. We needed him to let the game come to him.

"In the first two practices of this fall, we were like, 'Oh boy, here we go again. Same thing. He's shooting off his back foot, fading away from the goal, he's pressing.' And then all the sudden, it clicked. He has been really good at allowing the game to come to him, not trying to do too much, making sure everybody else gets involved."

A Zach Palmer (Sr.)
"I don't think Zach gets a whole lot of credit. Maybe that's because he does some things quietly. What Zach needs to do is be more consistent. That's where maybe some of that feeling, 'He's not like those other guys out there.' Zach's got to be more consistent in his efforts, in his production. Instead of having a big game, one or two or three games, and then having nothing the next, he's got to be more consistent in his efforts. If he does that, that'll go a long way for us. I know that."

Rival Coaches Say

"Older, more experienced defense now. Quite a bit of game experience returns. No longer young... A wealth of talent and experience returning. Their year to win it. Greeley's knee will be a big question mark. If he's healthy they will be tough to stop and hard to score on... Very talented defense and you know coach Petro will have them motivated after the way their season ended last year to their archrival. On offense, can someone get to the goal and strike fear in an opposing defense, can Stanwick and/or Palmer be the leader of the attack unit? They are solid up the middle in the goal and at the faceoff X... This is a team that for some reason has faded down the stretch past couple years... They need to open up the offense. They have the best players, but don't allow those guys to be playmakers... Have two of the top midfielders in the country with Rob Guida and John Ranagan. Can John Greeley recover fully from his latest injury and bolster that already powerful midfield?

"I wonder if their style of play will change with the rule changes? Will they become more aggressive on defense to suit their athleticism and create more scoring opportunities. If they play with less concern for the mistake, they could be very dangerous... Cannot find a weakness. So much experience returns for an outstanding coaching staff. While the attack of Palmer, Stanwick and Benn may still not need to shave more than once a week, last year provided them with a lot to grow on... The midfield, while not possessing the greatest shooting percentages, returns intact and healthy... A stellar defense with Durkin, Lightner and Reilly. If you can penetrate this defense, one of the best goalies in the nation is there to deny all but the best of shots: Bassett."

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