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Alphabetical 2014 NCAA D1 Preview: Johns Hopkins

We’re back with the Alphabetical 2014 NCAA D1 Previews! Like last year, we’ll go through all of the D1 men’s teams for 2014 (there are 67 this year!) and we are now moving on to the Johns Hopkins Blue Jays, located in Baltimore, MD.

Photo Credit: Tommy Gilligan

Johns Hopkins went 9-5 in 2013, but just barely missed out on an at-large bid to the NCAAs. This was the first time in 41 years that Hop didn’t qualify for the postseason so you know Petro and the Jays will be on a mission in 2014. For a team that won a title in 2007 (and 2005), sitting at home in May is simply not an option. In 2015 Hop will join a conference, but for 2014 they remain an independent. Let’s take a look at their schedule, and then the team.

Hopkins plays Ohio State, Towson, and Michigan in February. OSU is going to be a tough opener, and Towson and Michigan will be hungry. All three of these games are at Homewood. Then Hop goes on the road and their first three games in March are all away games against Princeton, Mt. St. Mary’s, and UMBC. The Princeton game stands out as a big one there. Hop then hosts Syracuse and travels to Virginia before a three game home stand with UNC, Albany, and Maryland. That’s a great schedule right there, but Hop also travels to Navy, hosts Villanova, and then travels to Loyola to close out the regular season.

When Towson, Michigan, MSM, UMBC, and Navy are your “easy” games, you’ve got a great strength of schedule. Hopkins is clearly testing themselves this year (and prepping for a move to the Big Ten with OSU, Michigan, and Maryland all on the slate), and I love that the Hop – Maryland rivalry game will also be a conference game in 2015.

Hopkins dropped a number of close games last year, and while they beat Towson and Maryland, losses to Princeton, Syracuse, Albany, UNC, and Loyola pushed them out of the NCAAs. A 13-8 loss to Cuse and an 8-4 loss to Loyola were the worst of the bunch. Hop only lost to Albany by 1, and their loss to then #1 UNC came in OT. Basically, Hop was really close to winning one or two more games. And because they were so close, I can’t see them changing all that much. Instead, Hop will refocus, make some minor tweaks, and try to reload.

When it comes to offense, reloading shouldn’t be a problem. Wells Stanwick returns to QB the attack, and along with Lyle Thompson, there isn’t a guy I trust more to carry the ball. Stanwick has great vision, knows when to move and when to dodge, and constantly puts pressure on opposing defenses. His role should increase again this year, and while 47 points (his 2013 total) isn’t bad, I could see him exploding for 60 or more this year. Brandon Benn will be finishing a lot of Stanwick’s passes, and he could also improve noticeably on his 2013 totals (34 goals, 1 assist). Zach Palmer may be gone, but Ryan Brown is no slouch and can straight up score. The Hop attack is loaded and ready to go, and Kevin Interlicchio could also see time, especially on man up.

The Hopkins midfield is also brimming with talent, and I like this group to put up points. All out athletes John Ranagan and John Greeley are gone, but guys like Rob Guida, Greg Edmonds, Phil Castronova, James Malm, Rex Sanders, and Riley DeSmit are more than capable of scoring, and doing the work between the lines. I’m looking to Connor Reed to have a good sophomore year, and I could see Bronson Kelly getting more run as well.

And if there is one player to watch on Hop outside of Stanwick, it HAS to be #34 Mike Pellegrino at LSM. Pellegrino is a hustle machine, and the king of deflections. He’s not the fastest guy in the world but he has a great motor and is not afraid to shoot the rock. He’s a junior now, and if you don’t know him by now, you will by the end of the season. In my opinion, he’s a game changer. His Hop teammates must agree, because he is a Co-captain… as a Junior… at Hopkins. Mike Poppleton is gone, but Drew Kennedy returns to take face offs after winning 54% last year as a back up. Craig Madarasz is another FoGo to keep a keen eye on. Seen him in action. Quick hands!

Defensively, Hop will be without Pierce Bassett in goal. Eric Schneider is a senior out of Massapequa who saw some time last year, and performed ok in less than 90 minutes of game time. If Schneider isn’t getting the job done, Petro has four other goalies to choose from, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see freshman Ryan Feit push for time at some point. Will Ryan is a big goalie who saw no real action last year and Jack Connelly has transferred in from Providence where he started every game in 2013, going 8-8 for the Friars. There could be some great battles in net for Hop this year, but the team should be reasonably strong there with so many good candidates.

Jack Reilly returns to lead the defense, which is good because Tucker Durkin and Chris Lightner have both graduated. Robert Enright was the 4th guy down low last year, and he returns as a Junior and will see a lot more time. Nikhon Schuler played as a back up LSM last year and is athletic and great with his feet. He could continue at LSM, play SSDM, or even bump down low to be a shut down pole. John Kelly is another guy who could step in and start down low for Hop, and he could be a good Durkin-esque defender. He’s big, strong, and loves to hit.

All of the above basically says that Hop COULD be back in 2014 with a vengeance. I think they’ll figure out the goaltending situation and face off position quickly. If they fail there, they have options. Defensively some new guys are stepping in, but these aren’t fresh faced first years… we’re talking about guys who have been chomping at the bit. On offense, Hop has talent. If they take their feet of the brakes more often, they can score with anyone.

Hopkins played it conservative last year and missed out on the NCAAs. Don’t expect them to make the same mistake twice.

For more NCAA D1 Lacrosse coverage, check out Alphabetical 2013 NCAA D1 Preview: Air ForceAlbanyArmyBellarmineBinghamtonBostonBrownBryantBucknellCanisius,
Colgate,  CornellDartmouthDelawareDetroitDrexelDukeFairfieldFurman,
GeorgetownHartfordHarvardHigh PointHobartHofstraHoly Cross, and Jacksonville.