When Syracuse faces Johns Hopkins in the Carrier Dome today at 6 p.m., it’s safe to say these two teams know each other well. Very well.
In fact, the Orange and Blue Jays, the two winningest programs in college lacrosse, have met each other at least once every season since 1983. Johns Hopkins owns a 26-21-1 advantage all-time in the rivalry.
On Saturday, No. 1 Syracuse (5-0) hopes to extend its perfect start and beat No. 9 Johns Hopkins (5-1) for the fifth time in a row. Syracuse is off to its best start since 2000, when it began the season 7-0, won the NCAA championship and finished with a 15-1 record.
The Orange shouldn’t underestimate Johns Hopkins, but it’s relatively unclear how strong the Blue Jays are this year. The team, which lost to Princeton 8-3 on March 5, has yet to face its toughest opponents. Johns Hopkins’ first six foes are a combined 12-22 and the team has outscored them 73-33.
Head coach Dave Pietramala’s team enters the game averaging 12.17 goals per game and ranks third nationally in scoring defense at 5.5 goals allowed per game, but its opponents have been Towson, Delaware, Siena, Princeton, Manhattan and University of Maryland Baltimore County—not exactly the cream of the crop. Beginning with this game, the Blue Jays will face three other top 10 teams (Virginia, North Carolina and Maryland).
Syracuse junior Tommy Palasek knows the Blue Jays better than anyone else. Palasek played two seasons at Johns Hopkins before transferring to Syracuse in January. Palasek had 14 goals in 28 games for the Blue Jays. For the Orange, Palasek is coming off a breakout performance against Albany. He had a career-best five points, including four goals in the 18-13 win on Tuesday. He has seven points (4 goals, 3 assists) in his first five games for Syracuse.
The game will be televised live nationally on ESPNU.
Who to watch on Blue Jays
Senior Chris Boland leads the Hopkins attack with 13 goals. Zach Palmer and Kyle Wharton each have 11. The Blue Jays have a young first midfield with sophomores John Ranagan (6g, 8a), John Greeley (6g, 6a), a Lafayette, N.Y. native, and rookie Rob Guida (6g).
Matt Dolente is 57-of-81 (.704) on the year in the faceoff circle and has powered Hopkins to an 82-42 advantage over its opponents at the X.
Sophomore goalie Pierce Bassett ranks third nationally in goals-against average (5.08). He’s started all six games for the Blue Jays and has 55 saves.
The teams have combined to win half of the 40 NCAA championships since men’s lacrosse became an NCAA-sponsored sport in 1971; the Orange, of course, own 11 titles to the Blue Jay’s nine.
Syracuse holds an 8-4 advantage in postseason contests between the teams. Five of those have come with the championship on the line (1983, 1984, 1985, 1989 and 2008). The Orange beat the Blue Jays to win NCAA championships in 1983, 1989 and 2008.
Johns Hopkins is the only program that currently has more than 900 all-time victories and enters Saturday’s game with 904 wins; it began playing the sport in 1883. Syracuse is second with 811 all-time wins dating back to 1916. The two teams are the only college lacrosse programs with more than 800 wins.
The Blue Jays owned the early years by winning 12 of the first 15 meetings, but Syracuse has won five of the last six meetings.
Coach John Desko and Pietramala are two of the top active coaches in the game. Desko is the active leader in winning percentage at .776. He boasts five national championships and a 152-44 overall record. Pietramala owns a 141-56 overall record, sixth in active winning percentage (.716), and has a pair of national championships.
The coaches have split 16 head-to-head meetings, including two matchups when Pietramala was Cornell’s head coach.