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2015 College Lacrosse Preview: Johns Hopkins' Defense

The Jays will play defense (not only because they have to).

Lacrosse Magazine interviewed a host of opposing coaches to get their feel on the nation's best teams. Using a quote from those coaches, we're building out context to a specific thought.

The quote:

"You know this team will play defense and Schneider is a solid goalie with a full year in cage under his belt."

Dave Pietramala has instilled a very specific kind of stylistic profile for his defenses over the last few years: Hyper-execution combined with a desire to force opponents into taking saveable or non-preferrable shots has allowed the Jays' defense to excel on a year-to-year basis. As Pietramala wrote in Lacrosse: Technique and Tradition:

If our individual defenders do a good job of containing the ball carriers and if quality team defense is used, shots from the porch or beyhond are all that will be available to the opposing offense. These are the low-percentage shots our defense is designed to encourage the other team to make. Shots from the porch and beyond are ones that can lead to the worst ball turnover in lacrosse -- a weak attempt to score that usually hands the ball over to the defense.

* * * * *

Our defensive players are not extended all over the perimeter to try to take the ball away, thus forcing our opponent to go to the goal. Instead, our philosophy is to play the ball and slough in on the perimeter to protect the more dangerous areas of the field -- which is much like a zone. While we play the ball, with each man responsible for an offensive player, the concept of sloughing-in is more compatible with the zone principle. Although the defenseman has his man, he also will slough off of him when he is not in a dangerous area in order to lend more support to the on-ball defender. If his man moves into a more dangerous area, the defenseman will move closer to him. If he leaves an area, we will follow him. In this way, we combined zone and man-to-man defenses.

The residue has been highly-capable keepers seeing a manageable ratio of shots on goal, turning away a high rate of shots that actually enter a save radius. This isn't a sociopathic approach to stopping opposing offenses -- in fact, it deviates pretty notably from the way Pietramala actually played defense -- but it is one that has merited the Blue Jays significant strength on the defensive end of the field.

JOHNS HOPKINS' STYLISTIC DEFENSIVE PROFILE: 2011-2014
METRIC '14 VALUE '14 NT'L RANK '13 VALUE '13 NT'L RANK '12 VALUE '12 NT'L RANK '11 VALUE '11 NT'L RANK
Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 25.64 5 24.07 4 22.71 3 23.88 8
Ratio of Shots on Goal to Total Shots per Defensive Opportunity 56.61% 17 57.39% 13 55.43% 5 57.67% 23
Raw Defensive Shooting Rate 25.54% 10 23.34% 5 26.16% 13 25.05% 10
Raw Defensive Shots on Goal Shooting Rate 45.11% 13 40.67% 5 47.20% 22 43.45% 10
Defensive Assist Rate 15.73 20 13.75 6 13.01 5 14.66 24
Team Save Percentage 54.89% 13 59.33% 5 52.80% 22 56.55% 10

There is little reason to believe that Hopkins won't hit its marks again in 2015. Rob Enright, John Kelly, Eric Schneider, Mike Pellegrino, and Phil Castronova return to anchor the team's defensive efforts while Nick Fields rotates into the defensive core to fill the void left by Jack Reilly. Hopkins isn't in a class unto itself as a defensive team, but its combination of strategic administration and high-end individual skills places the Jays in the elite reaches of the nation's strongest defensive enterprises.