Fall Snapshot: Johns Hopkins Blue Jays

(Photo Courtesy of Johns Hopkins Athletics)

Welcome to the Fall Snapshot series. Throughout the fall I will be taking an early look at all 75 DI men’s college lacrosse teams and giving a snapshot of where each is heading into the 2023 season.

Head Coach: Peter Milliman (Third Season, 2021-Current)

Johns Hopkins 2022 Record: 7-9 (2-3 Big Ten)

Key Departures: Connor DeSimone (A), Joey Epstein (A), Owen McManus (D), Josh Kirson (G)

Key Returners: Garret Degnon (M), Jacob Angelus (M), Jonathan Peshko (M), Brett Martin (SSDM), Beaudan Szuluk (D), Scott Smith IV (D)

Transfer Additions: Russell Melendez (A, Marquette), Alex Mazzone (LSM, Georgetown), Luke Caracciolo (G, Bryant)

The Johns Hopkins Blue Jays’ 2022 campaign was really highlighted by, and in part defined by, one weekend that saw Historic Homewood field become home to historic losses. The Blue Jays fell 11-10 to Navy on Friday March 18th and then lost two days later to the Delaware Blue Hens, 12-10, in Newark. That weekend saw Navy earn its first win at Homewood since 1969 and the Blue Hens earn their second-ever win over Johns Hopkins in program history. The first win cam in 1955.

Year two under Peter Milliman indeed yielded some lows and ended with a losing record. However, it wasn’t all bad for the Blue Jays. They rebounded from that horrific weekend with a solid 15-12 win over Michigan, gave Ohio State trouble in a 12-10 loss. They also advanced to the Big Ten semifinals where they lost to Maryland 16-11; a much better result than the 22-7 regular season slaughtering they saw the weekend before.

When all was said and done, Johns Hopkins was, per LacrosseReference, No. 20 in RPI, 40th in offensive efficiency, and 44th in defensive efficiency. In 2023, with John Crawley having returned to his alma mater as offensive coordinator, and a full normal season under that defense’s belt, let’s see if the Blue Jays can return to relevancy.

Burning Questions

What to Expect From The John Crawley Offense?

After three seasons as the offensive coordinator at Lehigh, John Crawley has returned to his alma mater to serve in the same role under head coach Peter Milliman. With the Mountain Hawks, Crawley oversaw offenses in both 2020 and 2021 that averaged 14 goals per game. Rocked by injuries, Lehigh averaged 9.4 goals per game in 2022. Crawley also coached seven all-conference honorees during his time with Lehigh.

With Crawley now at the head of this Hopkins offense, what will this unit look like and what can they accomplish?

Last season, Johns Hopkins averaged 10.9 goals per game and had a team shooting percentage of 26.9%. An 18-12 win over Towson, 15-12 win over Michigan, and 16-8 Big Ten quarterfinal victory over Penn State marked high points for the Blue Jays’ offense. From that unit last season, Garret Degnon (40G/7A) and Jacob Angelus (19G/20A) are the only two returning top-five scorers. Degnon was the team’s leading point-getter and goal-scorer whole Angelus was the third-leading scorer. Jonathan Peshko (16G/4A) and Brendan Grimes (11G/3A) each saw numerous starts last season as sophomores and could be main cogs on that end in 2023. This unit also adds transfer Russell Melendez from Marquette. He had

Caracciolo’s Goalie Spot to Lose?

One of the biggest personnel losses for this program following last season is in cage where Josh Kirson has exhausted his eligibility. Kirson transferred in from Ohio State ahead of the 2021 season and through two years at Homewood started in 25 games and made 234 saves with a 44.6% save percentage. He started all 16 games in 2022 and made 163 saves with a 47.1% save percentage.

The natural heir apparent to the Johns Hopkins goalie spot? Bryant grad transfer Luke Caracciolo. A four-year starter in Smithfield, he left with his name high up in the record books as he ranks third in career saves (534), first in saves per game (12.1), and tied for fourth in save percentage (53.1%). He also ranks 4th in Bryant history in single-seasons saves (181). Caracciolo is coming off a 2022 campaign in which he made 181 saves with a 53.1% save percentage.

Caracciolo is the most experienced and proven goalie in the Blue Jays’ goalie room and the likely next man up in between the pipes there at Homewood. Also in that room is sophomore Jack Webb, senior Tim Marcille, and graduate student Gib Versfeld. The latter started 10 games over three seasons at Amherst from 2018-2020.

Can The Clearing Improve?

I am on record giving praise to the close defense unit of Owen McManus, Beaudan Szuluk, and Scott Smith IV last season. Was one of the best in the country? No. But they were fairly solid and had some shining moments. Now, turning those defensive stands into scores on the other end was another story.

Johns Hopkins ranked 53rd nationally and last in the Big Ten when it came to clearing percentage. The Blue Jays went 289-for-346 (83.5%) in the clearing game last spring. The Blue Jays’ three worst clearing games came in their home opener against Jacksonville (15-for-20, 75%), against Loyola (18-for-26, 69%), and Syracuse (17-for-25, 68%); all three of which were games that came during the first half of the season. In total, Hopkins went 123-for-155 (79%) in the clearing game through its first eight games. It went 150-for-172 (87%) in its final eight games of the season. That included a perfect clearing performance against Penn State and a 95% day against Delaware.

Whether it was the ‘ole shaking off of rust as the season progressed or an actual tangible change in how they cleared the ball, or a mixture of both, Johns Hopkins did improve in the one area in which they were arguably the most criticized in through February and March. Can they keep that improvement up throughout the whole of this coming spring?

Potential Breakout Player

Brendan Grimes, Midfield, Junior

Limited a bit due to injury last season, Grimes played in 11 games with five starts. In that time he tallied 14 points off 11 goals and three assists and was the Blue Jays’ seventh-leading scorer. A highly-rated recruit out of high school, Grimes arrived at Homewood with much fan fare. 2023 could be the year we see much of that hype fully come to fruition.

Freshman Class

Johns Hopkins brings in a 12-man freshman class with its 2022 recruiting efforts. The class is headlined by a solid midfield haul that includes Brooks English (Lawrenceville, N.J.), Koleton Marquis (Don Bosco, N.J.), and Matthew Collison (St. Michael’s, Ont.). All three are rated as four-star recruits by Inside Lacrosse.

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