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Breaking Down the Blue Jays - A Look at the Hopkins Midfield

Junior Rob Guida emerged as one of the top young midfielders in the nation last season as he totaled 17 goals and 11 assists.

Feb. 6, 2013

In the second of a three-part series, takes a look at the 2013 Johns Hopkins men's lacrosse team. Today, we take a look at the Blue Jay midfield.

Click here for a video preview of the Blue Jay midfield

Johns Hopkins men's lacrosse coach Dave Pietramala has seen a lot during his 12 seasons as the head coach of the Blue Jays and more than 25-year association with college lacrosse dating back to his playing days at Homewood. That said, the 2013 season is likely to be different than anything he's experienced before.

Recent rule changes designed to speed the pace of play and the elimination of the sideline horn to freely substitute have likely taken some of the specialization out of the game and may bring back more of the two-way middies that were common in year's past. The quick restarts will lead to more transition opportunities, which will likely lead to higher-scoring games and an emphasis on play at the midfield.

With these changes in place, it's comforting to Pietramala and offensive coordinator Bobby Benson to have an experienced core of returning midfielders to soften the blow - and take advantage of the emphasis on faster play. Five of JHU's top six offensive midfielders, including two who earned All-America honors last season, are back.

Headlining the Blue Jay midfield are senior co-captain John Ranagan and junior Rob Guida, who both earned Second Team All-America honors a year ago. Add in seniors John Greeley and Lee Coppersmith and the Blue Jays have, in essence, four returning first-line midfielders.

Ranagan, who has twice earned All-America honors during his career, is one of several Blue Jay midfielders who should thrive in open-field play while having the ability to stay on and play defense. He counts 43 goals and 26 assists to his credit through three years and has the physical tools to create matchup problems in both settled and unsettled situations.

Guida, a mainstay in the Blue Jay lineup since arriving at Homewood, had a breakout season last year, when he emerged as perhaps JHU's most complete midfielder. He punched up 17 goals and 11 assists last season and gives the Blue Jays someone with range who can also get to the goal. Guida is the latest in a long line of Johns Hopkins midfielders who emerged nationally as a sophomore (A.J. Haugen, Kevin Boland, Kyle Harrison to name a few) and his ability to play at a high level at both ends of the field is a key for the Blue Jays.

Johns Hopkins Sophomore All-American Midfielders

1998 - A.J. Haugen (1st Team)
1999 - Conor Denihan (HM)
2002 - Kevin Boland (3rd Team)
2003 - Kyle Harrison (2nd Team)
2006 - Paul Rabil (1st Team)
2011 - John Ranagan (1st Team)
 2012 - Rob Guida (2nd Team) 

Greeley missed the last quarter of last season with an injury, but appears to be fully healthy and ready to assume his spot back on the Blue Jays' first midfield. One of the top passers on the team, Greeley has a combination of size and skill that no other Blue Jay midfielder possesses at this point. He is a regular on the Blue Jay extra man unit and will look to bounce back to the form of his sophomore year, when he totaled 14 goals and 12 assists.

If there is one player who may thrive under the new rules more than anyone else it's Coppersmith. He has steadily increased his production each season and scored a career-high 15 goals last season. The free-flowing game with quick whistles on restarts is tailor made for Coppersmith, who excels in unsettled situations and has the ability to shoot on the run with both hands.

Rounding out JHU's top returning midfielders is junior Greg Edmonds, who seems poised to take the same step Coppersmith took last year. Edmonds ran a regular shift on the Blue Jays' second midfield last season and scored seven goals with one assist. He has a strong work ethic and continues to improve in all areas of the game. His continued development could be a key for the Blue Jays this season.

Several younger players - junior Rex Sanders, sophomore Bronson Kelly and freshmen Holden Cattoni and Connor Reed, are all battling for a spot on the second midfield and provide options for the Blue Jays there and with a third midfield unit, which is likely to see more time this season. Each has a unique skill set and the potential to contribute this season.

Another option for Benson is to utilize an attackman at midfield in certain situations. The Blue Jays have done this frequently in the past and have the personnel to take advantage of matchups this way again this season.

Like the regular offensive midfield rotation, the Blue Jays also have experience on faceoffs, where senior Mike Poppleton and sophomore Drew Kennedy return. Freshmen Ryan Matthews and Craig Madarasz have also shown the ability to play early and could make an immediate impact. Hopkins finished seventh in the nation in team faceoff winning percentage last season (.578) and the effectiveness of this group is crucial to any success the Blue Jay may enjoy this season.

Poppleton returns as JHU's top faceoff specialist after enjoying a strong season last year. He won 167-of-271 (.616) faceoffs and grabbed 78 ground balls a year ago, when he finished sixth in the nation in faceoff winning percentage and 19th in ground balls per game (5.2).

Top Returning Faceoff Specialists (by 2012 FO %)
(60% or higher listed)

Kevin Massa (Bryant) - .639
Dylan Levings (Yale) - .632
 Mike Poppleton (JHU) - .616 
Michael Roe (Fairfield) - .608
Chase Carraro (Denver) - .604
Thomas Croonquist (Villanova) - .603
R.G. Keenan (North Carolina) - .603 

Kennedy provided a spark at the X and won 29-of-55 (.527) with 14 ground balls in 13 games played. He fueled JHU's 11-10 win at top-ranked Virginia by winning 8-of-14 faceoffs and is likely to take on an increased role this season.

A key to success in the faceoff game is often the play of the wings, and the Blue Jays appear set there. Guida, junior Phil Castronova and sophomore Michael Pellegrino all excel with the ball on the ground and have the ability to get up and down the field in unsettled situations.

Coming Tomorrow - An in-depth look at the Blue Jay attack