Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 2/17/11
From Press Releases and Staff Reports
Three Philly products will be key figures this year for a youthful Johns Hopkins squad hoping to rebound from a 7-8 season which still resulted in its 39th straight appearance in the NCAA tournament.
Senior attackman Kyle Wharton (Haverford School), sophomore defenseman Tucker Durkin (La Salle) and senior face-off specialist Matt Dolente (Malvern Prep) are returning as starters for the Blue Jays.
A year ago, Johns Hopkins played seven freshmen regularly. But the youth of 2010 has nothing on the youth of 2011. Despite trotting out that many freshmen, the Blue Jays still had five seniors who combined for more than 230 career starts in the lineup and several key players still remained from the 2008 team that advanced to the national championship game.
Now, head coach Dave Pietramala and his staff look at a unit that could feature six sophomores and two freshmen – in the starting lineup! The Blue Jays return a combined total of 91 career starts among all 47 players on the roster and 30 of those belong to one player (Wharton).
For the Blue Jays to be successful in 2011, they will need Wharton, Dolente and fellow co-captain Chris Boland to lead a team that just may have what it takes to surprise some people, but will need to find its way early when teams often rely on veterans to carry the load.
“There’s no denying the fact that we’ll rely on a youthful group,” Pietramala noted. “There are some very good teams out there – teams that are senior-laden. We need to be better fundamentally this year than we were last season, maybe more so because we are so young. I’ve been encouraged by the effort and enthusiasm of this group through the fall and the early part of the preseason. That’s been a very positive part of our off-season.”
Below is a position-by-position look at the 2011 Blue Jays.
If there is one area where the Blue Jays have experience, it’s on attack. Wharton, Boland and sophomore Zach Palmer form a strong nucleus to build around with Wharton and Boland the real keys to success.
Wharton possesses the ability to stretch a defense as he is one of the top shooters in the nation. He totaled 24 goals and nine assists a year ago and is JHU’s career active scoring leader (62g, 20a). He did a nice job in the fall working on the other parts of his game (dodging, passing) and has emerged as a vocal team leader.
Boland missed all but five quarters a year ago with an injury and will be looking to return to his form of two years ago, when he led the team in scoring with 28 goals and 18 assists. He has worked tirelessly to return this season and his ability to shoot, get to the goal and pass make him a difficult matchup and a player who makes everyone around him better.
Unlike last year, Palmer spent the entire fall playing attack and looked much more comfortable back in his natural position. He scored 10 goals and added five assists a year ago, works well behind the goal and should flourish with a healthy Boland on board.
The Blue Jays’ projected starting midfield consists of sophomores John Ranagan and John Greeley – a number of other players will vie for the third spot on the first unit.
Ranagan and Greeley were thrown into the fire a year ago and combined for 15 goals and seven assists. Although young, they count a combined 29 games played and 16 starts to their credit and the midfield will be built around them.
Ranagan flashed the ability to get to the goal last season and brings a blue-collar mentality to the position, while Greeley is a great passer and seems more comfortable this season than he did a year ago.
Pietramala doesn’t hesitate to voice to his displeasure with the Blue Jays’ efforts on defense last season. “We need to do a much better job of maintaining our discipline and playing as a unit than we did last season,” he stated. “Our struggles in other areas certainly led to us playing entirely too much defense, but that’s not an excuse – we need to have a better understanding of what we are trying to do and how to work as a team on the defensive end of the field.”
The leader on defense is sophomore Durkin, whose 15 starts a year ago as a freshman account for the total combined career starts by every returning defensive player on the team.
Durkin is a solid one-on-one defender with a physical, no-nonsense approach to the game. He grabbed 25 ground balls and finished second on the team with 19 caused turnovers as a freshman. He gained valuable experience a year ago and should be a mainstay on close defense for the next three years.
Sophomore Chris Lightner makes the move to close defense after playing in all 15 games at the pole a year ago. Junior Gavin Crisafulli and freshman Jack Reilly are the leading candidates to grab the third and final starting spot alongside Durkin and Lightner.
Senior Eric DiProspero (Unionville) and juniors Tyler Mordecai, Andrew Cote, Scott Matthews and Conor Greissing will all look for time and could find a home in specialty situations, including man-down opportunities.
Pietramala spent more time working with the goalies in the fall, something he has not regularly done in the past. The group spent a lot of time in the fall working on the fundamentals of the position and Pietramala’s presence almost certainly will help with the overall understanding of the defense. Being a good communicator in the goal is essential in JHU’s defensive scheme.
Sophomore Pierce Bassett was thrust into a difficult position last season as he was elevated to the starting spot midway through the season. The experience gained should prove invaluable as he works to assert himself among the top young goalies in the nation.
Bassett posted a 9.90 goals against average and a .536 save percentage a year ago and flashed his brilliance in the regular-season-finale at Loyola when he posted a career-high 20 saves to help the Blue Jays punch their ticket to the NCAA Tournament.
Junior Steven Burke will push Bassett into the spring for the starting spot and has the ability to be a successful goalie at the Division I level.
Another area of concern a year ago was on faceoffs, where the Blue Jays won just 47% of their attempts. Points of emphasis during the fall for new faceoff coach Jamison Koesterer were the Blue Jays’ competitiveness on ground balls on faceoffs and the discipline not to jump the whistle – more than 20% of the faceoffs JHU lost last season came on violations.
Dolente is the most experienced player among the three who are likely to see significant time here. Dolente ranks among the top 10 in school history in career faceoff attempts and his ability to help the Blue Jays get above the 55% mark as a group will be essential to the overall success of the team this season.
Ranagan and classmate Mike Poppleton will team with Dolente to handle a majority of the faceoff chores. Senior Peter Swerz, sophomore Grady Stevens (Unionville), and freshman Mike Faby could also find time here.