02/22/2013 10:30 AM ET
Michigan looks up to Hopkins in lacrosse
Wolverines visit Baltimore in Division I litmus test
By Eamon McAnaney / SNY.tv
Michigan is only in its second year of Division I lacrosse after dominating the club level. (Michigan Athletics)

If there is indeed a revolution that lacrosse fans in America are hoping for, Saturday in Baltimore might just be the sports version of the Boston Tea Party.

Michigan, the school that has given us "Hail to the Victors," Bo and the Fab Five, goes to historic Homewood Field to take on Johns Hopkins, the school that has set the standard for excellence in college lacrosse.

"I would describe it as very significant," said Johns Hopkins head coach Dave Pietramala. "We are one of the oldest and tradition-rich programs in lacrosse, and Michigan athletics is a pillar in the college sports community. Football, basketball, hockey -- you name it, Michigan is synonymous with success."

"There are many similarities between the two athletic programs," said Michigan head coach John Paul. "Tradition and history are a big part of Michigan, and the fact that we are about to play at the school with the most tradition and history in lacrosse is not lost on us."

According to senior captain Thomas Paras, the Michigan players are excited to see how they stack up against a perennial national-title contender in just their second year as a Division I varsity program.

"This is the type of program we want to emulate, so it's a great opportunity for us to line up and compete against one of the best teams in the country," Paras said.

Michigan was a dominant program at the club level, but in 2010, the Wolverines created shock waves by announcing they would become the first BCS school to add men's lacrosse at the Division I level since Notre Dame in 1980.

"I've always been a realist and for a long time I never thought a lot of these dreams would become reality," Paul said. "Then we had a new athletic director come in and it almost became possible overnight, so there will definitely be a surreal aspect to it."

Despite trumpeting a reputation as "the fastest-growing sport in America," lacrosse's growth at the Division I men's level was stunted at the beginning of this century. With the Maize and Blue leading the way, programs have been added at several schools in the past few years and the hope is that this is just the beginning.

"Adding Michigan is hugely important -- it shows that lacrosse is a big-time sport," says Pietramala. "It adds credibility to our sport and signifies that we are moving in the right direction."

Saturday will not be Michigan's only high-profile game for what they call "Team Two" in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines will also visit Citi Field on March 17 for the inaugural Metropolitan Classic against Colgate and reigning Tewaarton Trophy winner Peter Baum.

Although Paul does not downplay the significance of these moments, he doesn't exactly want his players embracing these moments.

"It's like the scene from Hoosiers when Gene Hackman measured the height of the rim. The dimensions at Homewood on Saturday are going to be the same as at Michigan Stadium and every other lacrosse field they have played on, and the Blue Jays will be just another lacrosse team that we will play."

The lacrosse world is expecting big things from Michigan, mainly because its home field is known as "The Big House," but the Wolverines understand that success will not happen overnight.

"We are a long way from where we are going to be," said Paul. "We are building an elite culture. That is our challenge every day. Everybody assumes it's about talent. It's not about talent, it's about culture."

The players know that the payoff from their increased commitment might not be felt by this year's team.

"I will be very proud to look back in five years," said Paras. "And know that I was part of the team that played against Johns Hopkins at Homewood Field and helped lay the foundation for Michigan lacrosse to be at the same level as Johns Hopkins."

Eamon McAnaney is an on-air host for SNY and a contributor to SNY.tv. Follow him on Twitter @EamonMcAnaney.
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