- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 28, 2006

Throughout most of Division I athletics, a national title for a lower-profile sport won’t provoke nearly the same outpouring as success in football and men’s basketball will.

It’s a bit different at Johns Hopkins, a Division III school in most sports. Yet lacrosse is revered at the Baltimore school whose stadium is adjacent to the sport’s hall of fame.

Hopkins is a place where homecoming occurs in the spring and the university president is a fixture at lacrosse games. Success has long been measured in championships rather than victories, and mere NCAA tournament appearances (Hopkins has made 34 straight) aren’t enough to satiate a strong fan base.

With that it mind, it is little surprise “Undefeated” (Johns Hopkins University Press, 208 pages, $24.95, illus.) has hit bookstands less than two months before another lacrosse season commences. It provides a lasting memory of Hopkins’ run to last spring’s NCAA title, its first since 1987, and of a veteran-laden team that had fallen short as a No. 1 seed on Memorial Day weekend three straight times.

John Jiloty of Inside Lacrosse breezily recaps the Blue Jays’ season, detailing Hopkins’ anguish upon a semifinal loss to Syracuse a year earlier and fiery coach Dave Pietramala’s decision to lighten the workload of a team with a history of wearing down in May.

Brief recaps of each game are included, with an emphasis placed on the offensive balance Hopkins achieved as it rolled to the sport’s first perfect regular season in six years. Victories against rivals from this area — Virginia, Maryland and Navy — receive attention along with wins against Princeton, Syracuse and Duke.

The Blue Jays’ bizarre overtime victory against Virginia in the NCAA semifinals — a game already hailed as one of the best in the sport’s history and one influenced by heavy wind gusts and a nearly hour-long storm delay — receives an extended look. Hopkins’ calm reaction to falling behind with 12.9 seconds left in regulation and subsequent comeback are appropriately portrayed as defining moments for the team.

Of course, the payoff was Hopkins’ national title game victory against Duke two days later, a win persuasively conveyed as a moment that erased almost two decades of close-but-not-quite letdowns for a member of the sport’s royalty.

While the season review provides all the necessary background, the story of the season is told mostly through James T. Van Rensselaer’s photography. Photos from all but two games — a frigid early-season meeting with UMBC and a visit to Towson in the regular season’s penultimate week — are included.

Fans expecting cover-to-cover shots of former Hopkins star Kyle Harrison will be a bit disappointed. The midfielder appears plenty, including a shot from the night he won the Tewaaraton Trophy, but great effort is made to offer pictures of supporting players, Pietramala’s entire staff and fans as well.

A bit pricey (though probably not for most Hopkins grads) and probably not an ideal gift for long-suffering Maryland fans, “Undefeated” is a fitting tribute for the first team to complete a perfect season — including the NCAA tournament — since 1997. Even for lacrosse enthusiasts without an affinity for Hopkins, it is at least a reminder a welcome seasonal Saturday fixture is nearly ready to return.

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