No. 15 Johns Hopkins’ 7-4 upset of No. 4 Maryland on Saturday at Byrd Stadium in College Park has the potential to be a turning point for the program, which had just labored through a four-game stretch in which it had lost three times – including two in a row.
But senior midfielder John Ranagan, who sparked the Blue Jays (7-4) with a three-point effort on two goals and one assist, did not take the bait on articulating the significance of the victory over the Terps.
“I’m not really sure,” he said. “They’re just the No. 1 team. Like every game, we prepare like we’re going to win. This week, we really listened to Coach [Dave Pietramala]. We had a great game plan and we went out and executed it.”
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Ranagan’s reticence is not surprising considering that Pietramala is renowned for avoiding peeking into a crystal ball. But it’s difficult to overlook how critical Saturday’s win was for Johns Hopkins.
The Blue Jays had an RPI of No. 22 in the first list released by the NCAA early last week, and their best wins came against No. 24 Virginia (5-7) and No. 26 Towson (7-6). Maryland’s rating was No. 4 – although that is expected to change when the second list is publicized later this week.
Many analysts had predicted that if Johns Hopkins had lost Saturday, the team would not have earned an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament even if it had swept its last three contests against Navy, No. 8 Loyola and Army. Now the Blue Jays figure to be a solid piece of that conversation.
Pietramala did not want to make too much of the impact of the win against the Terps.
“I think we’ve shown flashes of what we can do,” he said. “I just think the most consistent thing about us is we’ve been inconsistent. I always use to say that the one-goal wins were about the little details. The fact that we won a game this way, that it was tight … I think those moments have helped us, but do I think this is the turning point? I have no idea. We’ve got to show we can turn around and handle success now. We sure didn’t do it after Virginia [on March 23]. So we have to show that we can do it now.”
The victory would seem to lift a burden off the players and coaches, but Pietramala declined to play psychologist.
“I don’t know. That’s for you guys to decide,” he said. “You guys are the ones talking about us winning and not winning and making the playoffs. The way we’ve approached it and the way we thought of this was, this is a chance to play the No. 1 team in the country, and it was a wonderful opportunity. We could look at it one of two ways. We just lost a heartbreaking game – two in a row – and now we’ve got to play them? Or we could look at it and say, ‘We lost two in a row, and this is a third one of those games, and the best one of all because this is a great opportunity for us.’ That’s exactly the way we approached it.”
* For the second game in a row, the Johns Hopkins defense hampered one of Division I’s most prolific offenses. Albany, which had led the country with 15.1 goals per game, scored just 10 in a one-goal win on April 5. Maryland, which had averaged 13.1 goals, was limited to just four. Senior defenseman Tucker Durkin, who shut out Great Danes sophomore attackman Lyle Thompson and allowed just one assist to Terps senior attackman Kevin Cooper, called Saturday’s defensive effort the best of the season. “I think we really put it together today for most of the game, and I think the biggest difference was, we were all on the same page out there,” he said. “This is obviously a huge game for us, but when we were out there, we were talking to each other and we were all on the same page, especially in the second half. In the first half, we were still getting our feet under us. But in the second half, we were able to communicate what defense we were in and everybody was on the same page. It felt really good.”
* The Terps (8-2) outshot Johns Hopkins, 36-31, but put only 16 of those attempts on the cage. The offense’s shooting percentage of 11.1 percent is a season low, and coach John Tillman said the team’s shot selection had to improve. “I just feel like at times, we rushed it,” he said. “We took the first shot and maybe not the best shot. I’ll be honest, I thought our guys at times were shooting to spots and give Hopkins credit. Maybe a piece of the hands, maybe a little bit of contact so that the shot didn’t go exactly where we wanted.” Redshirt junior midfielder Mike Chanenchuk, who led the team with two goals and one assist, agreed. “There were also times when we probably didn’t make the best decisions available and maybe rushed into something,” he said. “Playing from behind, we never like to play the score, but there’s always an extra sense of urgency, a sense that you want to make the shot perfect instead of just shooting your regular shot.”
* Maryland’s defense surrendered seven goals – the fewest goals allowed in a loss since April 20 when Duke prevailed in a 6-5 decision. Tillman had few complaints about that unit’s performance. “I thought all in all, if you hold a team to seven goals – especially a pretty talented team – you’re giving yourself a chance to win,” he said. “I thought [defensive coordinator] Kevin Conry did a good job of getting them organized. I loved the communication and leadership down there. The guys played their butts off. So there’s some things we can certainly build on. We had some younger guys step up. [Junior short-stick defensive midfielder] Greg D’Arienzo played well today. [Freshman short-stick defensive midfielder] Nick Manis did a nice job. Those guys continue to get better. So we’re excited what they can do for us going down the road.”