No. 5 Johns Hopkins had thought that Friday night’s contest against No. 14 Princeton would be a good barometer of the team’s progress thus far. The result, however, was not what the Blue Jays had been hoping for.
The 11-8 setback exposed Johns Hopkins on several fronts. The defense was slow on its slides and had problems with the Tigers’ picks, the offense was inaccurate and couldn’t take advantage of a retooled defense, and the team was turnover-prone.
It all adds up to what should be a good deal of soul-searching among the Blue Jays.
“We thought this was going to be a good measuring stick for us,” senior defenseman Tucker Durkin said. “We’re going to see from the film what exactly we need to work on. It’s a long season. We’re not going to hand our heads right now. We’ve got another big one on Tuesday that we’re looking forward to. More than anything, I’m just going to remember this feeling and just kind of use it as motivation going forward.”
When asked to describe that feeling, Durkin answered, “Disappointed in myself, in our defense. There’s a lot of things we could’ve done better. Like I said, I’m going to remember this, and we’re going to use it as motivation moving forward.”
To be fair, Johns Hopkins’ first loss in four outings should not be a source for panic. The team has games against Mount St. Mary’s (2-2) and UMBC (1-2) before tangling with its next ranked opponent in No. 19 Syracuse (2-1). But how the Blue Jays fell is a wake-up call, according to junior attackman Brandon Benn.
“I think it’s a good way to see where we’re at,” he said. “We got by our first three games the way we wanted, and we felt like this was going to be our first real big test. We definitely saw what we need to work on and what we need to improve.”
Johns Hopkins won’t have much time to lick its wounds. The Mountaineers are scheduled to visit Homewood Field Tuesday night, and that’s fine with coach Dave Pietramala.
“[Q]uite frankly, we need to get back on the horse,” he said. “We need to put this feeling away. I think we’re all disappointed. Who’s happy when you lose? None of us are. So it’s the disappointment and what you are as a man, you figure out through your disappointments. We’ll handle it the right way. We’ll come back to work on Sunday. We’ll watch the film [Friday night] and [Saturday] and then we’ll get together with the team on Sunday, put Princeton to rest, and then get started working on Mount St. Mary’s.”
*Johns Hopkins’ starting midfield of seniors John Ranagan and John Greeley and junior Rex Sanders combined for 0-of-11 shooting and just one assist (by Ranagan). In the second half, the second line of senior Lee Coppersmith, junior Greg Edmonds and freshman Ryan Brown got extended playing time, but Pietramala said that had more to do with specific matchups. Pietramala said the Tigers had a good plan for neutralizing the starting midfield. “If you look at it, they were sliding as early as can be to John and John,” he said. “They said, ‘We’re going to pole Rex Sanders, and we’re going to slide to these other two guys, and we’re going to slide immediately.’ So what you do is you’re trying to force John and John and Lee – who had three assists and everybody talks about how he’s not a very good passer and he had three assists today – they forced the ball out of our midfielders and we got the opportunities. We just didn’t make the most of their opportunities.”
*Trailing 5-4 late in the second quarter, the Blue Jays thought they had gotten the equalizer when sophomore attackman Wells Stanwick shot from the doorstep slipped past Princeton freshman goalkeeper Matt O’Connor and appeared to trickle over the goal line with 0.6 seconds left on the clock. An official waived off the goal, but he did not appear to make the sign for a crease violation. He just waived off the goal, and both teams went into their respective locker rooms for halftime. Pietramala, who seemed incensed at the call, said afterward that it did not affect the team or the game. “They told me it wasn’t a goal,” he said. “That’s part of the game. We didn’t lose a game because of that goal. We didn’t lose momentum. It was a call, it’s part of the game. There’s a million other plays where we should’ve done a better job. The officials had a tough job officiating two teams getting after each other tonight. They had no impact on this game. I’d like to blame someone else. There’s no one to blame. We didn’t do the job when we needed to do it, and we’ll get better, we’ll learn from it, and we’ll move forward.”
*Friday’s contest against the Tigers was the second of four home games scheduled for 5 p.m. The atypical start times are dictated by ESPNU, which is broadcasting the games, but that doesn’t mean that everyone is happy. “There are some people out there that are very unhappy with me because we play a 5 o’clock game on a Friday night and not a 1 o’clock game on a Saturday,” Pietramala admitted. “If it were up to me and there were no benefits to it, I would play every game on Saturday at 1 o’clock. It’s what I grew up with, it’s what I played. But this is an opportunity to be on television nationally, and it benefits us a great deal to do that. Both teams have to deal with it. What time the game is, it doesn’t matter. We’re in our own locker room, on our own field, so we’re familiar with the setting. Our student section was there. There weren’t many Princeton fans there tonight. So is it to our disadvantage? I don’t know. We’d play the game in a parking lot, and you still have to throw, shoot, defend. You still have to do the fundamentals. Our game is changing. We’re seeing it happen right in front of our eyes. [Saturday], Duke and Maryland play at 11 a.m. Who wants to play at 11 a.m.? Every kid in America has sports on Saturday at 11 a.m. … So it’s just the way our game is changing, and it only benefits us to be on TV.”
*Chris White doesn’t carry the same cache as Tom Schreiber and Jeff Froccaro, but the senior short-stick defensive midfielder played a significant role in Princeton’s win. It was White’s goal with 5:40 left in the fourth quarter that gave the Tigers a three-goal cushion to truly feel comfortable. Coach Chris Bates marveled at White’s recognition of the time and space he had to shoot. “Just that kind of confidence for Chris to come down when we’re up two, that’s a back-breaking [goal],” Bates said. “That’s a big goal because it takes a lot of confidence to put yourself on the line. That made it real difficult for them to come back. So I give Chris all the credit.” Added Schreiber, a first-team All-American midfielder last season: “I think we took advantage of certain matchups and like Coach, said, Chris White had a huge, huge goal in transition. I think that made a huge difference in the game.”