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Updated January 29, 2018
The all-time winningest coach in school history, Dave Pietramala is as much a part of the history and tradition of the Johns Hopkins men’s lacrosse program as anyone. He spent four years as a standout defenseman for the Blue Jays from 1986 through 1989 and enters his 18th season as the head coach of the most successful team in college lacrosse history in 2018.
The record of the program - with its 45 national championships, nine NCAA titles, 44 NCAA Tournament appearances and 183 First Team All-Americans - is as daunting as it is impressive and no one has ever embraced the program quite like Pietramala.
The only candidate for the head coaching position when it became available after the 2000 season, Pietramala had watched the program slip, albeit slightly, from its glorious run in the 1970s and 1980s. The Blue Jays hadn’t won a national championship since 1987 when he arrived and hadn’t played in a national championship game since 1989.
Enter Pietramala, who was targeted, courted and hired by then Johns Hopkins President William Brody and Director of Athletics Tom Calder in a matter of days. It took less time than that for “Petro” to start piecing together a recruiting class that would change the course of the program.
When the history of the Johns Hopkins men’s lacrosse program is discussed, the general consensus is that Pietramala is the benchmark among players who roamed the defensive side of the field. Since 2001, he’s also worked his way into the discussion of coaching greats who have patrolled the sidelines at Homewood. In fact, with his first victory of the 2015 season, he passed the legendary Bob Scott as the winningest coach in school history with his 159th victory.
Pietramala cut his teeth in the coaching ranks the way so many have - with a series of stops on the assistant coaching trail. He spent time as an assistant at the Gilman School (1990) and Johns Hopkins (1991) before stops at the University of Pennsylvania (1992-93) and Loyola (1994). He returned to Homewood as the defensive coordinator for three years (1995-97) before accepting the head coaching position at Cornell in August of 1997. Just under three years later he was back home and the program has been in his care since.
Pietramala as the Head Coach at Johns Hopkins
Pietramala has guided the Blue Jays to a 185-76 record, 16 trips to the NCAA Tournament, seven appearances in the Final Four, the 2005 and 2007 National Championships, two other appearances in the NCAA Championship game (2003, 2008) and the inaugural Big Ten Tournament title in 2015.
From 2002 through 2005 the Blue Jays posted a 55-6 record with only three losses in the regular season. The Blue Jays ended the 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005 regular seasons ranked number one in the nation and were the top seed in the NCAA Tournament in each of those four years as well.
The 2005 national title also made Pietramala the first person in the history of college lacrosse to win a Division I national championship as a player and a head coach. To date, nobody has matched that feat.
The Final Fours
2015 (NCAA Semifinals): Johns Hopkins has advanced to the national semifinals a record 29 times. The trip to the Final Four for the 2015 team was easily the most surprising.
After starting the season with six losses in their first 10 games, the Blue Jays rallied for seven straight wins, won the Big Ten Tournament title and knocked off Virginia (19-7) and Syracuse (16-15) to advance to championship weekend.
The emotional run included a win at rival Maryland and two wins in the Big Ten Tournament that secured a spot in the NCAAs. The Blue Jays dropped a heart-breaking 12-11 decision to the Terrapins in the NCAA Semifinals, but the rally to get there was thrilling and one that won’t soon be forgotten.
2008 (National Runner-Up): The 2008 season ended with a record 18th appearance in the NCAA Championship game, but the ride to the game was unlike anything seen at Homewood.
A three-game season-opening winning streak was followed by a five-game losing streak. A gutty win over rival Maryland sparked an eight-game winning streak that included a stunning 10-9 win over top-seeded and top-ranked Duke in the NCAA semifinals. The Blue Jays’ hopes for a third title in four years were dashed by Syracuse, but few other coaches - if any - could have turned a 3-5 record in early April into an appearance in the title game and arguably the biggest upset in the history of the tournament.
Five players earned All-America honors in 2008, including Paul Rabil, who became the 21st player in school history to garner first team honors three times. He was also a Tewaaraton Finalist for the second straight year and a Second Team ESPN The Magazine Academic All-American. He ended his career as one of the most decorated players in school history.
2007 (National Champions): Finding a place for the 2007 NCAA Championship in the annals of the program is difficult.
Sure, the Blue Jays were considered a contender to win the championship when the season began, but a three-game losing streak at mid-season turned thoughts to making the NCAAs, not winning the tournament.
An overtime win in the pouring rain at Maryland and a one-goal win a week later against Navy jump-started a nine-game season-ending winning streak that included an overtime win against Notre Dame in the first round of the NCAA Tournament and a stunning one-goal upset of Duke in the national championship game.
Factor in the relative youth of the team - only seven seniors on the roster - and the mid-season losing streak and the coaching job may have been Pietramala’s finest - at least until 2008. The Blue Jays won six one-goal games and three overtime games en route to their second championship in three years.
Five players earned All-America honors in 2007, including Rabil, who grabbed the McLaughlin Award as the nation’s top midfielder and was a finalist for the Tewaaraton Trophy. He also earned Third Team ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America honors.
2005 (National Champions): The 2005 season proved to be one of the greatest in the storied history of the program as Pietramala guided the Blue Jays to a school-record 16 wins (16-0) and the program’s eighth NCAA title.
With an attention to detail and a team that followed suit, Pietramala orchestrated five one-goal victories and four overtime wins against the most difficult schedule in the nation. The Blue Jays were ranked number one in the nation throughout the season and became the first team since 1997 to be ranked number one from wire to wire and to go undefeated.
In addition to the team accolades, the Blue Jays also received their fair share of individual awards in 2005. Kyle Harrison earned both the Tewaaraton Award and the Enners Award as the nation’s top player, while he repeated as a First Team All-American and took home the McLaughlin Award for the second straight season as well. Six other Hopkins players joined Harrison on the All-America team, including Tom Garvey, who grabbed First Team All-America status. In addition, Chris Watson and Peter LeSueur earned Second Team ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America honors.
2004 (NCAA Semifinals): The Blue Jays capped Pietramala’s first four years with an enjoyable 2004 season that ended one win short of the national championship game. The Blue Jays posted a 13-2 record, spent a majority of the season ranked number one and were the top seed in the NCAA Tournament.
The 2004 Blue Jays placed seven players on the All-America team and Harrison was a Tewaaraton Finalist and the recipient of the McLaughlin Award.
2003 (National Runner-Up): In 2003, with an experienced team, but one that featured just four seniors in prominent roles, Pietramala guided the Blue Jays to a then school-record-tying 14 wins against just two losses and Hopkins advanced to the NCAA Championship Game for the first time since 1989, when Pietramala led the way from his position on close defense.
The 2003 season included many memorable moments and the Blue Jays led the nation in scoring offense, scoring margin and extra-man offense. The Blue Jay defense was also among the nation’s best as JHU allowed more than 10 goals just once on the year and held 14 of 16 opponents to nine goals or less. Hopkins was also the only team in the nation to finish in the top four in every major statistical category maintained by the NCAA.
Hopkins won its first three games in 2003 before suffering a 15-14 loss at Syracuse. The Blue Jays didn’t lose again until suffering a 9-7 loss against Virginia in the national championship game. Along the way the Blue Jays won 11 straight games, won their first three NCAA Tournament games by a combined total of 31 goals and avenged their only regular season defeat with a 19-8 win over Syracuse in the NCAA Semifinals.
With the success of 2003 came the rewards. The Blue Jays had seven players earn All-America honors, including two who garnered first team honors, while Harrison and senior Adam Doneger were two of five finalists for the Tewaaraton Award.
2002 (NCAA Semifinals): The top recruiting class in the nation arrived at Homewood three months after Pietramala’s first season ended and it was obvious that things would be different in 2002. With easily the youngest team in the top 25, Pietramala guided Johns Hopkins to a storybook campaign that ended just short of the national championship game.
With four freshmen in the starting lineup and five more playing prominent roles, Pietramala led the 2002 Blue Jays to a 12-2 record, the top seed in the NCAA Tournament and a berth in the Final Four. For the first time since 1995, the Blue Jays also ended the regular season ranked number one in the nation after winning their final eight games.
For his efforts, Pietramala earned the USILA’s National Coach-of-the-Year award. In all, six Johns Hopkins players earned All-America honors and senior Nick Murtha earned national goalie-of-the-year. Murtha and junior midfielder Adam Doneger were named First Team All-Americans. Senior defenseman P.J. DiConza earned Third Team All-America and Second Team Verizon Academic All-America honors and was the only men’s lacrosse player in the nation (at any level) to earn a prestigious NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship.
Pietramala Awakens a Giant
Pietramala served as the defensive coordinator at Johns Hopkins from 1995-97 before leaving to become the head coach at Cornell. In three seasons as the head coach of the Big Red, Pietramala guided Cornell to a 23-17 (.575) record, an appearance in the 2000 NCAA Tournament (Cornell’s first since 1995 and just its second since 1989) and a final national ranking of ninth in the 2000 STX/USILA Poll.
Cornell was the only team in the nation to beat eventual national champion Syracuse during the 2000 season and Pietramala was named national coach-of-the-year. With his first selection as coach-of-the-year, Pietramala became the first person in the history of college lacrosse to earn coach-of-the-year honors after being named the national player-of-the-year during his career.
Pietramala the Assistant Coach
Pietramala spent three seasons (1995-97) as the defensive coordinator at Hopkins, helping the Blue Jays to a 31-11 record, three trips to the NCAA Tournament and two appearances in the Final Four. He helped guide the 1995 team to a 12-0 record in the regular season and the top seed in the NCAA Tournament.
His early coaching stops at Gilman, Hopkins, Penn and Loyola prepared him for the defensive coordinator’s role at JHU, which ultimately led him to be hired as the head coach at Cornell after the 1997 season.
Pietramala The Player
Pietramala was a three-time First Team All-American during his career at Johns Hopkins. He led the Blue Jays to the 1987 NCAA Championship and an appearance in the 1989 NCAA Championship game. He was the recipient of the Schmeisser Award as the nation’s outstanding defenseman in 1988 and 1989 and earned the Lt. Raymond J. Enners Award as the nation’s most outstanding player in 1989 as well.
In addition, he was one of 10 Johns Hopkins players named to the NCAA Silver Anniversary Team in 1995 and he was selected to the All-Time Johns Hopkins Team at the end of his career. Pietramala also played in the club ranks with Mt. Washington and professionally in the Major Indoor Lacrosse League. He was inducted into the Johns Hopkins Athletic Hall of Fame in 2001 and the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 2004.
Pietramala, who was named to Lacrosse Magazine’s All-Century Team, was named the outstanding performer at the International Lacrosse Federation World Championships in 1990 as a member of the United States’ championship team in Perth, Australia. He again earned All-World honors in 1994 as he led the United States to the title in Manchester, England.
Pietramala continued his association with the national team in 2014, when he served as an assistant coach for Team USA at the FIL World Championships in Denver, Colorado.
A native of Hicksville, New York, Pietramala is a 1985 graduate of St. Mary’s High School. He resides in nearby Finksburg and has 14-year-old twin boys, Nicholas and Dominic.