Johns Hopkins’ Offensive Focus Shifts to Attack

PHOTO BY JOHN STROHSACKER

Cole Williams, a 6-foot-5 junior attackman, started to assert himself in the Johns Hopkins offense a month into the 2018 season and will shoulder a larger load in 2019.


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No. 7 Johns Hopkins

2018 Record: 12-5 (3-2 Big Ten)
Coach: Dave Pietramala (19th year)
All-Time Record: 983-334-15
NCAA Appearances: 46
Final Fours: 29
Championships: 9

Over the course of head coach Dave Pietramala’s nearly two-decade tenure at his alma mater, one offensive facet of the Johns Hopkins game plan has stayed pretty well intact. The offense usually flowed through the midfield.

Think of all of those alley dodges initiated to get defenders moving, by the likes of Kyle Harrison, Paul Rabil, John Ranagan, Mike Kimmel and Joel Tinney, to name just a few.

Heading into 2019 and the shot clock era, the Hopkins midfield is not being put to sleep, not by a long shot. The Blue Jays will depend on defensive and two-way middies to impact the middle of the field and get transition started. They will look for offensive sparks from sophomore Connor DeSimone and senior Jack Concannon. And there is a stable of young, big and physical specimens waiting to produce emerging forces.

But the offensive focus has definitely shifted to pretty obvious choices down low at attack, where senior Kyle Marr and junior Cole Williams will look to touch the ball early and often.

Marr is coming off a huge 41-goal season that led Hopkins and helped the Blue Jays find their late gear in ’18. The 6-5 Williams began to assert himself a month into the season with hat tricks. He aggravated the coaches with turnovers and errant shots and predictability, but wound up with 35 scores, second-best on the team.

“This might be the first time we’ve gone into a season committed to run everything through the attack,” Pietramala said. “Kyle has steadily improved his shooting throughout his career and is playing with an awful lot of confidence. [Williams] has spent a lot of time working on his right [off-shooting] hand and looks like a more versatile player. We’re excited about some of the other guys [at attack].”

Leading that group is freshman Joey Epstein, the highly-prized Landon Prep recruit who looked as good as advertised in the fall. “A terrific talent, our best freshman by far and our hardest worker,” Pietramala said.

Sophomore Jack Keogh, one of numerous attack/midfield hybrids for Hopkins, showed much improvement in the fall. So did junior Forry Smith, who is two years removed from a 14-goal season at attack.






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The Case For Johns Hopkins

Heading into the shot clock era or any era, any squad that has an excellent one-two punch like Marr and Williams on attack is most likely in a good place. The Blue Jays also return a host of experience on defense, where senior Patrick Foley and juniors Owen Colwell and Jack Rapine are back to start on close defense and seniors Robert Kuhn (LSM) and Danny Jones (DM) anchor a solid rope unit. Kuhn has started since his freshman year. Midfield leadership from DeSimone and Concannon, each of whom produced 18 points last year, is expected. Two years removed from knee surgery, Concannon looks like his old self. DiSimone added noticeable muscle to his 195-pound frame. 

The Case Against Johns Hopkins

With legitimate questions — especially at midfield, in the cage and in the faceoff game — the Blue Jays could find themselves walking a tightrope as they form their identity while facing another difficult schedule that yields only Delaware and Mount St. Mary’s as expected easy wins. Will the defense, led by Foley and Kuhn, be the consistent backbone it probably needs to be? Will the Blue Jays find enough effective two-way midfielders to control the middle? Will the senior leadership that was vital a year ago materialize again? Will young, strapping midfielders like freshmen Jake Lilly (6-4, 205) and Evan Zinn (6-3, 200) emerge in the rotation?

Path to the Playoffs

Before it turns its focus toward winning its third Big Ten title — and the automatic NCAA tournament qualifier status that brings — Hopkins once again will look to gain sizeable at-large points against a non-conference schedule that typically is formidable. Then again, it remains to be seen whether programs at Towson and North Carolina will bounce back well from subpar years, or whether Virginia and Princeton will continue to get better in 2019. Beating Loyola and Syracuse over the season’s first five games should do wonders for the Blue Jays. In addition, the Big Ten regular season should be high quality once again.

Players To Watch

Ryan Darby, G, So.

Darby, a 5-8 native of Dallas and three-time Texas All-State selection and team MVP at Plano West High School, played the only five minutes not taken last year by graduated starter Brock Turnbaugh. Darby was solid-to-outstanding last year in practice, and is coming off a fall during which he made this job his to lose.

Danny Jones, SSDM, Sr.
10 GB, 14 CT

Three years ago, Jones would have been an unlikely projection as a team tri-captain. But the 5-8 Jones has turned into a vital piece in the Hopkins rope unit with his ability to force mistakes and defend the bigger midfielders he encounters on a regular basis

Forry Smith, A, Jr.
2G, 2A

After scoring 14 goals and 20 points in his freshman season as an extra weapon in a deep attack, Forry had a rough sophomore campaign, starting with a broken hand that hindered him. He shed 10 pounds in the offseason and came to fall ball with renewed vigor. He was named a team tri-captain.

National Rankings

Category

Rank

Value

Offense 12th 11.71 GPG
Defense 26th 9.71 GAA
Faceoffs 26th 52.4 FO%
Ground Balls 38th 27.00/game
Caused TO 57th 5.59/game
Shooting 33rd 29.4%
Man-Up 31st 35.5%
Man-Down 29th 68.0%
Assists 9th 7.29/game
Turnovers 8th 10.88/game
Clearing 13th 89.7%

Power Ratings (Scale of 1-5)

Offense
⭐⭐⭐⭐

Defense
⭐⭐⭐

Goalkeeping
⭐⭐⭐

Faceoff
⭐⭐⭐

4-1

The Blue Jays won four of five one-goal games – all in April and May. After tight wins at Rutgers and Michigan, the Blue Jays lost in triple OT to Maryland on April 28, slipped past Ohio State with a dramatic, 6-5 decision in the Big Ten semis. A week after knocking off Maryland to win the league tournament, Hopkins rallied to nip Georgetown in OT in the first round of the NCAAs.

5-Year Trend
Turnovers

Year

Rank

Per Game

2014 21st 13.56
2015 6th 11.61
2016 25th 12.67
2017 2nd 10.67
2018 8th 10.88

Coach Confidential
Dave Pietramala

“Our attack has to be as good as advertised, and we have to develop more personality and charisma in the midfield. I think we return a group on defense that has looked much better than in the two previous years. Now, we have to take the next step and become the defense we are capable of becoming.”

Enemy Lines

“It’s going to be weird not having a Stanwick there. It’s going to be a different thing. They should be good, and they defensively they return a lot of guys. Brock did a good job in goal for them so [with him gone] they have to get a new starter. They have a lot of offensive pieces and a lot of defensive pieces back. Defensively, I felt they were better last year.

“They have one of the best offensive players in the league in the big lefty (Williams), so he’ll be a bear. Tinney gave them a lot of energy, heart and toughness. He was a bit fo a wild card, but that kid’s compete factor was really good.”

“Now they have to play fast. The new rules will encourage them to be free and play loose. They absolutely have a lot of talent there.”

“I always think of a team that has a lot of tradition and a lot of talent. Certainly, it’s well-coached offensively and defensively. I respect them a lot for what they’ve bene able to do and what they do every day. Nobody has a bull’s-eye on them more than they do.”

“Coach Petro, Coach Dwan, Coach Benson, those are elite coaches. That’s a team that’s always well-prepared, always well-coached. They lose a sparkplug in Tinney. Cole Williams is a beast of a kid, and being able to pair him with Kyle Marr, who’s as smart of a player as there is, they have some really nice pieces.”

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