No. 2 Johns Hopkins (7-0) boasts a wide advantage in this series, winning 55 of 84 contests. But the Blue Jays are 4-10 against Virginia since Dave Pietramala became the head coach prior to the 2001 season. Making matters worse, the No. 1 Cavaliers (8-0) haven’t lost in this series in Charlottesville, Va., since 1998. Virginia is looking for its fourth 9-0 start in the last five years. Here are a few factors that could influence the outcome at Klockner Stadium on Saturday.
1) Penalties for Johns Hopkins. The Blue Jays are usually a disciplined group, but they were penalized eight times in Saturday’s 11-7 victory over No. 7 Syracuse, which converted 2-of-7 extra-man opportunities. The Cavaliers has scored on 9-of-20 man-up chances, but Pietramala said avoiding unnecessary penalties is critical. “I know my team is a better team when they play with emotion, but we can’t get emotional,” he said. “I know that on Saturday, there were moments when we let the emotion get the better of us and were a little overzealous covering the ball or riding a guy out of the sideline. We can’t afford to play without emotion, but we can’t play emotionally. There’s a difference.”
2) Midfield production for Johns Hopkins. The starting midfield of juniors John Ranagan and John Greeley and sophomore Rob Guida combined for five goals and four assists in the win against the Orange. ESPN analyst and 2006 Tewaaraton Award winner Matt Ward said the Blue Jays will need a similar effort to give the attack some room to operate. “I haven’t spoken with Dom yet, but I imagine that Johns Hopkins is going to see a double-pole situation where you bring two long sticks up to the midfield to take on Ranagan and a dodger like Guida,” Ward said. “So for them, it’s about winning those one-on-one matchups. I think the attack has done a nice job for Johns Hopkins, but a lot of that production is coming from the attention that the middies are drawing, getting the defense to slide upfield and then dumping those passes. So they need Greeley, Ranagan, Guida and [junior] Lee Coppersmith to be goal scorers. If they can get seven or eight goals out of the midfield, they’re going to be in great shape.
3) Faceoffs for Virginia. The Cavaliers rank fourth in Division I in scoring, averaging 13.4 goals per game. But the offense isn’t as productive if it doesn’t get the ball. That’s where a faceoff unit that ranks 13th with a 57.8 percentage is key, according to Ward. “I think they’re a team that if you can get the ball to them for offensive possessions, they’re going to score,” he said. “I know that Johns Hopkins has a great defense and a great goalie in [junior] Pierce Bassett, but at the end of the day, I think Virginia is very, very deep. … They really can beat you from all angles on the field. In my opinion, this is one of the deepest Virginia offenses I’ve seen in a long time. So if they can get the ball from the faceoff X and win groundballs, they’re going to put up points.