No. 10 Johns Hopkins unveiled a different look on defense in Saturday’s 13-9 loss to No. 5 North Carolina when junior Michael Pellegrino shifted from the midfield to join senior Jack Reilly and junior Robert Enright on close defense and freshman Nick Fields started as long-stick midfielder.
The impetus behind the move was to match Pellegrino’s speed with that of Tar Heels junior attackman Joey Sankey, but it’s not the first time the Blue Jays (5-3) have tinkered with their defensive personnel. Enright, Fields and junior John Kelly – who had started the previous seven games – have rotated on close defense, and Reilly was a long-stick midfielder in his sophomore year.
More changes could be in store, especially when No. 19 Albany (4-4) visits Homewood Field in Baltimore on Friday at 7 p.m. if Johns Hopkins elects to match up Pellegrino against Albany junior attackman Lyle Thompson, a converted midfielder.
“Everything’s in consideration week to week,” coach Dave Pietramala said on Wednesday. “The goal is to put your players in positions where they can be successful. If we think playing Jack Reilly up top – which we have done in the past – gives us our best chance to cover someone and be successful, we’ll do that. If we think Mike gives us our best chance by putting him down low, we will do that. But we’ve always done that. We’ve always been willing to move guys around.”
One might think that Sankey scoring a career-high five goals and tying a career-high with seven points in Saturday’s result would dampen enthusiasm about moving Pellegrino from his natural position as a long-stick midfielder. But Pietramala pointed out that Sankey is a tough matchup for any defender.
“I don’t think Mike played him poorly on Saturday,” Pietramala said. “I think he got a goal against Mike, but it’s not Mike against Joe. It’s the defense versus the offense. We felt like Nick Fields was coming along and ready to make a contribution there. He made some mistakes and he made some really good plays. We felt like that was the best chance for us to be successful. Do we think we would do that again? If that’s what we’re required to do based off of matchups or injuries, sure, we would do that again.”