Having surrendered 9.2 goals per game this spring, No. 9 Johns Hopkins ranks just outside of the top third in Division I in defense, and the team has aided that effort by staying out of the penalty box.
Against the Blue Jays (6-3), opponents have had just 19 extra-man opportunities, which is the least allowed by any team in the country. At this rate, the team is poised to finish the season giving up just a shade under 30 extra-man chances, which would mark a program low since at least 2002.
“If you’re in the box a lot, you’re going to create opportunities for the other team,” coach Dave Pietramala said Wednesday morning. “This group’s been pretty disciplined with their sticks. I would say that part of it is that we’re fortunate to not have a lot of penalties called on us, but we don’t have a lot of those guys that are chase-and-checkers, and that may be part of the reason why we don’t have as many caused turnovers as some other teams. We’re not as stick-aggressive, and without being stick-aggressive, you’re not going to knock the ball to the ground a lot, but you’re also not going to be in the box a lot. It’s something we talk about quite a bit. Each year, we want to limit our fouls. It doesn’t mean that we don’t want to be aggressive. It doesn’t mean that we don’t want to be physical. But what it does mean is, we want to be intelligent.”
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As Pietramala mentioned, Johns Hopkins is lagging in the caused-turnover department. The team ranks 65th out of 67 teams, averaging just 4.1 turnovers. The Blue Jays emphasize fundamental defense over stick checks, but Pietramala conceded that the team has to improve in that category.
“A lot of it is personnel,” he said. “If you have a lot of long, rangy guys, you’re going to be able to stretch a little bit more. If you’ve got tremendous athletes, you can stretch and chase and check a little bit more. I think it’s just been a product of our style of defense. … I think in the end, you’d like to find a happy medium where you’re causing more turnovers, and we’d like to do that. So that’s probably an area that we could be a little bit better in.”