2024 men’s college lacrosse preview: Johns Hopkins seeking first appearance in Final Four since 2015

On those days when they’re laboring through the rigors of weight training sessions and practices, members of the Johns Hopkins men’s lacrosse program will reinvigorate each other by talking about winning the national championship at Lincoln Memorial Field in Philadelphia on Memorial Day weekend.

“We discussed it all fall,” graduate student attackman Garrett Degnon said. “That is our goal, to get to that weekend and win both of those games. Obviously, every team in the country has that as their goal. But it’s definitely a driving force.”

Such sentiment might not be misguided. After returning their top 11 scorers from last season and plucking the top goalkeeper from the transfer portal, the Blue Jays are poised to be a legitimate contender for the crown.

In perhaps a sign of that legitimacy, Johns Hopkins, which went 12-6 overall and 4-1 in the Big Ten before losing, 12-9, to eventual champion Notre Dame in the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals, is ranked No. 5 in the Inside Lacrosse preseason poll. The team was also voted as the favorite to win the Big Ten championship.

On the flip side, the Blue Jays have not advanced to the semifinals since 2015 nor collected the national title since 2007, and the absence of consistent success in the postseason has roiled an alumni and fan base that yearned for the Blue Jays to add to their collection of nine NCAA crowns. The promise of the upcoming season would seem to heighten the scrutiny around the team, but coach Peter Milliman said he expects the pressure.

“The reality is that at Johns Hopkins, it’s a responsibility to be competing for national championships every year,” he said. “So it’s not a conversation that ever leaves this locker room or this building. I don’t think the opinions from people on the outside impact us at all. I think that’s generally just noise we disregard. Whether they think we’re really good or really bad, that’s irrelevant. It’s the criteria that we use to evaluate ourselves and what we need to do to get better.”

The seeds for optimism were planted by the return of the entire starting offense. The attack of graduate students Jacob Angelus (17 goals and 44 assists) and Degnon (41 G, 5 A) and senior Russell Melendez (37 G, 16 A) is back with the first midfield of sophomore Matt Collison (26 G, 9 A) and seniors Brendan Grimes (20 G, 14 A) and Dylan Bauer (9 G, 7 A).

Add almost two more lines of midfielders in seniors Johnathan Peshko (16 G, 5 A), Ryan Evans (8 G, 4 A), Casey McDermott (6 G, 6 A) and Cameron Chauvette (7 G, 2 A) and sophomore Brooks English (6 G, 5 A), and it’s easy to understand the source of Degnon’s confidence.

“It’s such a blessing,” he said. “At the attack position, we’re on the field for most possessions, but there are 10 different midfielders who come on and have scored big goals in big games and have experience and have the skills to do whatever it takes. It’s really nice knowing that whoever goes on the field is going to help us.”

Graduation took a toll on the defense. Gone are two starters, defenseman Alex Mazzone (77 ground balls and 18 caused turnovers) and goalkeeper Tim Marcille (11.25 goals-against average and .499 save percentage).

But the unit welcomed back two starting defensemen in senior Scott V. Smith (32 GB, 23 CT) and graduate student Beaudan Szuluk (19 GB, 18 CT) and the defensive midfield of senior long-stick midfielder Patrick Deans (8 GB, 6 CT) and senior short-stick defensive midfielders Brett Martin (19 GB, 15 CT) and Hunter Jaronski (12 GB, 4 CT). Milliman also successfully recruited graduate student goalie Chayse Ierlan, who compiled an 11.40 goals-against average and a .517 save percentage as a four-year starter at Cornell and spent his freshman season in 2019 under Milliman.

“He comes from a different program and a different system. So he’s spending time learning this one and trying to acclimate himself as much as possible,” Milliman said of Ierlan. “You can’t just plug and play, and certainly in college lacrosse, so much of it is the team chemistry that you build around, not just the sum of the parts that you add up.”

As encouraging as last season was, Milliman said he isn’t leaning on that quarterfinal loss to Notre Dame because some players weren’t on last year’s team. But Degnon said for those who were, the experience of reaching that stage in the postseason is invaluable.

“This Hopkins team has found a sense of belonging there,” he said. “I think there’s a feeling that it wasn’t a fluke and that it was kind of where we were supposed to be and that we should feel comfortable there. So I think that experience in that big game definitely helped us a lot and feel like we belong there.”

Loyola Maryland

Coach: Charley Toomey, 19th season

Last season: 9-8, 4-4 Patriot League

Postseason: Patriot League Tournament final, No. 5 seed

Preseason conference poll: Third of nine teams

Starters gone (2): D Matt Hughes (47 ground balls, 24 caused turnovers), D Cam Wyers (31 GB, 22 CT)

Starters back (8): A Adam Poitras (34 goals, 15 assists), A Matthew Minicus (33 G, 16 A), A Evan James (31 G, 10 A), M Davis Lindsey (17 G, 18 A), M Seth Higgins (12 G, 14 A), M Henry Haberman (12 G, 3 A), D Alex Bean (40 GB, 10 CT), G Luke Staudt (11.14 goals-against average, .554 save percentage)

Season opener: Saturday vs. No. 3 Georgetown

Skinny: The Greyhounds’ offense found new life after moving Poitras and James from midfield to attack in the last seven games, when they combined for 35 goals and 12 assists.


Coach: John Tillman, 14th season

Last season: 10-6, 3-2 Big Ten

Postseason: Big Ten Tournament final, No. 3 seed; NCAA Tournament first round, No. 4 seed

Preseason conference poll: Third of six teams

Starters gone (2): M Kyle Long (10 G, 23 A), D Brett Makar (48 GB, 21 CT)

Starters back (8): A Braden Erksa (26 G, 22 A), A Daniel Kelly (30 G, 8 A), A Daniel Maltz (28 G, 10 A), M Jack Koras (21 G, 8 A), M Jack Brennan (7 G, 11 A), D Ajax Zappitello (29 GB, 21 CT), D Colin Burlace (23 GB, 11 CT), G Brian Ruppel (11.25 GAA, .484 SV%)

Season opener: Saturday at No. 20 Richmond

Skinny: The No. 6 Terps will welcome back a pair of significant contributors in 2022 from torn ACLs in attackman Eric Malever (26 G, 22 A) and goalkeeper Logan McNaney (8.44 GAA, .597 SV%).

Mount St. Mary’s

Coach: Chris Ryan, first season

Last season: 8-8, 7-2 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference

Postseason: MAAC Tournament semifinal, No. 2 seed

Preseason conference poll: Fourth of 10 teams

Starters gone (5): A Jared McMahon (32 G, 15 A), M Kelly Gouin (28 G, 5 A), M Jake Krieger (15 G, 18 A), M Jeremy Wilson (12 G, 11 A), A TJ Gravante (13 G, 8 A)

Starters back (5): A Cormac Giblin (17 G, 9 A), D Mitchell Dunham (75 GB, 32 CT), D Jackson Phillips (20 GB, 20 CT), D Ben Ward (18 GB, 13 CT), G Griffin McGinley (11.96 GAA, .447 SV%)

Season opener: Saturday at Navy

Skinny: Ryan’s debut after succeeding Tom Gravante might lean on a defense spearheaded by Dunham, the 2023 MAAC Defensive Player of the Year and preseason Co-Player of the Year.


Coach: Joe Amplo, fifth season

Last season: 8-8, 5-3 Patriot League

Postseason: Patriot League Tournament quarterfinal, No. 4 seed

Preseason conference poll: Fourth of nine teams

Starters gone (3): M Patrick Skalniak (10 G, 7 A), D Kyle Fairbanks (18 GB, 9 CT), G Pat Ryan (10.29 GAA, .537 SV%)

Starters back (7): M Max Hewitt (24 G, 12 A), A Xavier Arline (17 G, 16 A), A Mac Haley (16 G, 14 A), A Henry Tolker (27 G, 2 A), M Jon Jarosz (17 G, 8 A), D Jackson Bonitz (39 GB, 22 CT), D AJ Hernandez (16 GB, 12 CT), D Nick LiCalzi (11 GB, 4 CT)

Season opener: Saturday vs. Mount St. Mary’s

Skinny: A new face who could make a big impact for the Midshipmen is new offensive coordinator Dave Cottle, the former Loyola Maryland and Maryland coach who succeeds Mike Phipps after he rejoined the Terps.


Coach: Shawn Nadelen, 13th season

Last season: 6-9, 5-2 Coastal Athletic Association

Postseason: CAA Tournament semifinal, No. 4 seed

Preseason conference poll: Third of eight teams

Starters gone (4): M Kyle Berkeley (31 G, 16 A), D Garrett Zungailia (47 GB, 18 CT), D Reagan McNemar (19 GB, 7 CT), G Evan Long (10.83 GAA, .520 SV%)

Starters back (6): A Nick DeMaio (29 G, 21 A), A Joaquin Villagomez (27 G, 10 A), M Mikey Weisshaar (17 G, 8 A), M Josh Webber (12 G, 12 A), A Ryan Schrier (15 G, 0 A), D Colby Barsz (22 GB, 18 CT)

Season opener: Tuesday at No. 5 Johns Hopkins

Skinny: One of the Tigers’ top priorities is determining a starting goalkeeper between juniors Luke Downs and Alex Kauffman and redshirt freshman Matt Nilan.


Coach: Ryan Moran, eighth season

Last season: 8-5, 3-4 America East

Postseason: None

Preseason conference poll: Fifth of eight teams

Starters gone (3): A Brett Baucia (23 G, 11 A), M Taylor Bohanan (16 G, 2 A), D Tony Diallo (25 GB, 14 CT)

Starters back (7): M Mateo Brown (34 G, 5 A), A Allen Hockenberry (9 G, 12 A), A Mike Doughty (8 G, 12 A), M Dane Hall (13 G, 3 A), D Ethan Robinson (27 GB, 14 CT), D Ben Stephanos (27 GB, 12 CT), G Jayson Tingue (9.53 GAA, .518 SV%)

Season opener: Friday, Feb. 16, vs. Drexel

Skinny: The Retrievers’ absence from the America East Tournament for only the second time in Moran’s tenure is bound to be a point of motivation for this year’s group.