There have been times this spring when the coaching and medical staffs at Johns Hopkins have cringed or held their breath after watching Hunter Moreland absorb a hit or fall to the turf. Inevitably, the junior faceoff specialist – who is wearing a brace to protect his left knee – returns to the sideline and waits to go back out for another draw.
For his part, Moreland shrugs off any worries about the physical nature of the position he plays for the No. 8 Blue Jays (7-4, 2-1 Big Ten).
“That’s part of the faceoff,” the White Hall resident and Boys’ Latin graduate said Wednesday. “It’s a grueling and grinding position, and you know that when you signed up for it. So what are you going to do? But I love it. It gives me an ability to get out there on the field and make a difference. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. A lot of guys get the same kind of beating, but you love the game and you love to play.”
After sitting out the first six games of the season because of his knee injury, Moreland has made an immediate impact in five games, winning 57.5 percent of his faceoffs (61 of 106), collecting 19 ground balls, and adding one assist. In Saturday’s 13-11 win against then-No. 7 Penn State, he won a career-high 19 draws in 28 attempts and scooped up five ground balls.
As impressive as that outing was, coach Dave Pietramala recalled a moment with 1:40 left in the second quarter where Moreland outran a Nittany Lions player to push a loose ball toward a teammate when Penn State had a man-up opportunity. Sixty-two seconds later, senior midfielder Cody Radziewicz scored a goal to give Johns Hopkins a 9-5 lead.
“I think that’s been indicative of his approach,” Pietramala said of Moreland. “It’s been very blue collar, very workmanlike. His performance has been one of sacrifice. He’s banged up, he’s beat up as a lot of guys in that position are at this time of year, and he just continues to go out there and give everything that he has for the team.”
As well as Moreland has played, the team has won only 45.5 percent of its faceoffs thus far, and that number does not initiate much confidence for an extended postseason run. But Moreland said he is willing to accept the pressure of helping the Blue Jays push that number north of the 50 percent mark.
“Going to a school like Johns Hopkins, you go there to be in the spotlight,” he said. “You don’t want to avoid it. You come to play for those big moments. That’s what you’ve been dreaming about since you were a kid. You go out there and you work all week and all year long for the chance to go out there and perform and make a difference.”