NCAA Lacrosse Preview: No. 8 Johns Hopkins (Men)


Joey Epstein returns after being named Big Ten Rookie of the Year.

US Lacrosse Magazine released the Nike/US Lacrosse Division I Men’s Preseason Top 20 on Dec. 17. Team-by-team previews will be unveiled on through the end of the month and will also appear as part of the magazine’s NCAA preview edition in February.

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No. 8 Johns Hopkins

2019 Record: 8-8 (3-2, Big Ten)
Coach: Dave Pietramala (20th year)
Assistants: Bill Dwan, Bobby Benson, Larry Quinn
All-Time Record: 991-341-15
NCAA Appearances: 47
Final Fours: 29
Championships: 9

2020 Schedule



Feb. 8 Towson
Feb. 15 @ Loyola
Feb. 22 North Carolina
Feb. 29 @ Princeton
March 7 Syracuse
March 10 Mount St. Mary's
March 14 @ Navy
March 17 @ Delaware
March 28 Michigan
April 4 @ Rutgers
April 11 Penn State
April 18 @ Ohio State
April 25 Maryland

Save the Date
April 11

A year after getting swept by the Nittany Lions — a 20-9 regular-season rout and an 18-17 overtime classic in the Big Ten title game — the Blue Jays could be primed to go toe-to-toe again with Penn State at Homewood Field. A victory could carry large NCAA tournament implications for Hopkins.

Defensive Woes Prompt Petro to Blow Up Depth Chart

After watching the Blue Jays suffer through one of their more unsatisfying seasons on defense in 2019, Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala decided to send many of his freshmen, sophomores and juniors home for the summer with a declaration to ponder.

Upon their return to Homewood for the start of the fall semester, not a midfield, close defense or goalie job was secure for 2020. The fall season and beyond would redefine the meaning of competition for older players and underclassmen alike.

“From the middle of the field on down [to the goalie], not one person’s job was safe when they came back,” Pietramala said. “The fall, the winter and the preseason would be used [for coaches] to come to the conclusion as to which guys would give us the best chance to do the things we expect a Hopkins defense to do.”

“And we have followed suit,” he added. “During the fall, not one group at any position started one drill together and stayed together the next. We kept things as competitive as they could be. Some guys were getting more runs in practice in a day than they’ve gotten in the past over a week. We want to breed competition every single day.”

By the time the Blue Jays had finished 8-8 last year — narrowly avoiding their second losing season in 19 seasons under Pietramala — the head coach had made up his mind.

The Blue Jays had allowed 13 goals per game, among the highest in the nation. In six of their defeats, they surrendered at least 16 scores. In the end, Hopkins negated the production of a solid offense that averaged just over 12 goals.

Pietramala said the problems boiled down to poor communication, lack of trust, slow reactions, inability to read offensive players’ eyes and body language with confidence — all of the things that create too many good looks at your net.

So the fall took on a whole new flavor, with the defense and its rotations and supposed depth chart.

“There was constant shuffling in all of the position groups. We changed the combinations in every drill, at every practice, every week,” Pietramala said. “We started our third goalie in our Penn scrimmage. We did that kind of thing with a bunch of guys.”

“Normally, the [depth chart] writing would be on the wall by now, but I don’t know that to be the case with anyone on our defensive roster,” he added. “What I do know is we are building good depth and everyone is fully engaged. And we’re going to be a better defense for it.”

Projected Starters

A – Joey Epstein – So. – 48 G, 25 A
A – Cole Williams – Sr. – 27 G, 19 A
A – Forry Smith – Sr. – 21 G, 5 A
M – Alex Concannon – Sr. – 18 G, 8 A
M – Brett Baskin – Jr. – 13 G, 4 A
M – Connor DeSimone – Sr. – 4 G, 13 A
FO – Kyle Prouty – Jr. – 57.6 FO%, 66 GB
LSM – Jared Reinson – Jr. – 10 CT, 17 GB
SSDM – Matt Hubler – Sr. – 33 GB, 3 CT
D – Owen Colwell – Sr. – 11 CT, 31 GB
D – Jack Rapine – Sr. – 13 CT, 26 GB
D – Owen McManus – So. – 11 GP
G – Ryan Darby – Jr. – 13.04 GAA, 44.8 SV%

Tewaaraton Watch
Joey Epstein, A, So.

As a first-team conference choice and Big Ten Rookie of the Year, Epstein set records for a Hopkins freshman with 48 goals and 73 points, easily team highs. A third-team USILA All-American, he also was the school’s first freshman attackman to earn an All-America nod since Steven Boyle in 2007.

X Factor
Ryan Darby, G, Jr.

In a season to forget for the Hopkins defense, there were plenty of breakdowns in communication and coverage, plenty of high-percentage looks for opposing shooters. But Darby, who emerged from the fall in a fight for his spot with senior Jacob Giacalone, must be a better stopper in 2020.

National Rankings




Offense 23rd 12.13 GPG
Defense 58th 13.0 GAA
Faceoffs 26th 54.0%
Ground Balls 55th 28.75/game
Caused TO 65th 6.31/game
Shooting 30th 29.0%
Man-Up 5th 45.6%
Man-Down 30th 67.3%

6-foot-2, 200

The Blue Jays have made an effort to get bigger on defense and at midfield, and the raw numbers at Homewood say that is happening. The number of midfielders and defensemen measuring at least 6-foot-2, 200 pounds has reached 11. Nine of them are underclassmen.

Enemy Lines

“Hopkins had an up-and-down year that was highlighted by back-to-back wins over rival Maryland. They have enough returning to be a top-tier team but will need better than 45 percent in goal to get to where they want to be.”

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