- The Washington Times - Friday, May 6, 2005

A perfect finish could be just the start of a memorable May for Johns Hopkins.

The top-ranked Blue Jays (11-0) close out the regular season today at Homewood Field when they play unranked Loyola (5-7). No team has made it through a regular season with a perfect record since Loyola in 1999, although Hopkins clearly has other things in mind for its season.

“We have not talked about it,” said Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala, whose team has won 33 straight at Homewood. “To be honest, I’m not worried about streaks, I’m not into home winning percentage. It’s not something we set out to do. This year we just said we want to play our best lacrosse when it matters most.”

That would be the NCAA tournament, which the Blue Jays have not won since 1987. Hopkins is all but assured its fourth straight No. 1 seed in the NCAAs, and has been the sport’s dominant program with a 50-6 record since 2002. Yet with no titles, the Blue Jays’ impressive feats during that stretch — such as a 16-2 record in one-goal games — have faded in the wake of postseason losses.

“The problem with this, the media and the fans, they want to judge you by ‘Have you won a championship,’ ” Pietramala said. “An 11-0 regular season, if that’s what it is, it’s a wonderful thing. Then everyone wants a championship. If you don’t win one, then you [messed] up, and you lose that achievement.”

Still, it would be difficult to diminish an unbeaten regular season given the sport’s parity and Hopkins’ willingness to tackle a schedule Pietramala accurately describes as “brutal.” In just more than a month, the Blue Jays defeated Syracuse, Duke and Navy in overtime and also upended Maryland and Virginia.

That set up a closing run against Baltimore Beltway rivals Towson — an ugly 8-4 victory last week that was tied at 3 after three quarters — and Loyola.

“That is a tough, tough stretch,” Pietramala said. “The tougher part isn’t the physical part, it’s the mental part. Those are quality teams and to be successful you have to be up for them. Then you play Towson, and all Towson does is talk about how much they don’t like you — starting with their coach [former Hopkins coach Tony Seaman] — and you know you’ll get their best effort. Now we play Loyola. These last two weeks are very hard emotionally for these guys.”

Thinking ahead

For the second time in three seasons, Maryland coach Dave Cottle’s foresight in scheduling could pay off in the postseason.

In 2003, Cottle scheduled a preseason scrimmage at Syracuse, figuring the Terrapins could be sent there to play in the NCAA quarterfinals and it would be wise to get goalie Danny McCormick acclimated to the Carrier Dome’s silver background. Sure enough, the Terps were shipped north in May and ripped Massachusetts 13-7 behind McCormick’s 15 saves.

Today, the No. 5 Terps (8-5) visit Penn (2-10) at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field, the site of the final four later this month. The game is a trial run for the facility, which never has played host to a college lacrosse game.

“Penn asked us if we would play and we said we would and they said there might be some moving around, which is why it went from 1 to 3 to 5 [p.m.],” Cottle said. “We said we thought it would be a good experience.”

Tigers get their wish

No. 10 Towson (10-4) can clinch its third straight Colonial Athletic Association title tonight when it travels to No. 16 Delaware (11-4), which won the teams’ regular-season meeting 11-5 on March 26. The Tigers vividly remember that game and are eager for the rematch.

“There’s nothing worse than losing to Delaware,” said Towson goalie Reed Sothoron, who made 12 saves in the Tigers’ 5-4 defeat of Villanova in a CAA semifinal Wednesday. “We’re not underdogs, we’re defending champs. I’m not worried about it. They got lucky one time and we can beat them this time. … That’s who I wanted to play since I thought it was a fluke the first time.”

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