With a 6-5 win over Navy on Friday night at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, No. 5 Johns Hopkins won its third game in seven days, and coach Dave Pietramala said afterward that the team is physically exhausted.
“Three games in seven days is a lot,” he said. “… I think we need a rest, and I think we need it right now. We made a decision that we would give these guys two days off. Do you want to prepare for [Wednesday’s home game vs.] Villanova on two days? No, you don’t, but they play tomorrow. So if they’re going to turn around and practice on Easter Sunday, they’ve got us by a day, I guess. That’s the way it goes.”
Asked if he was tired, senior attackman Brandon Benn replied: “I’m not going to sit here and say I’m not. Three games in seven days is definitely tough. Mentally, it’s tough. Physically, it’s even [tougher]. To be honest, I’m just happy we’re able to come out with the three wins over seven days. Just happy we’re able to move on from this one and get better and prepare for Villanova on Wednesday.”
This recent stretch might be a good test for championship weekend at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore (May 24 and 26) if the Blue Jays (9-3) are fortunate enough to get there. But Pietramala, who is already a proponent of delaying season openers until March, didn’t sound especially fond of the semifinal-final format of the NCAA tournament.
“That’s why the Final Four is challenging,” he said. “Physically and emotionally, you’ve got to charge the batteries in one day? It doesn’t make sense. But this is a good chance for us to grow as a team and the word is grind. We had to grind it out today. It wasn’t pretty.”
Circling back to “Three Things to Watch” …
1) Johns Hopkins’ special teams flips script. The Blue Jays entered the game tied for second in Division I in man-up offense at 56.8 percent (21-of-37). They converted just 2-of-7 extra-man opportunities, but the man-down defense stole the spotlight. That group shut out Navy on 4 of 5 chances. Although the Midshipmen were mired in a 0-for-11 drought before senior attackman Sam Jones (Severna Park) beat Johns Hopkins senior goalkeeper Eric Schneider with 5:22 left in the third quarter, Pietramala cited the man-down unit’s play as a factor.
“I think one of the big differences was special teams,” he said. “They were 1 of 5, and that’s huge for us. That’s a good extra-man unit.”
2) Navy’s attack is contained. Pietramala said all the right things about respecting the Midshipmen’s midfielders, but he acknowledged in his post-game comments that the Blue Jays did a solid job of containing Navy’s starting attack of Jones (one goal and two assists), senior Tucker Hull (two goals) and sophomore T.J. Hanzsche (one goal). Meanwhile, the only midfielder who recorded a stat against Johns Hopkins was junior Gabe Voumard (one goal and one assist).
“That was the group we needed to let beat us tonight,” Pietramala said of the Midshipmen’s midfield. “If you look at the stats, Tucker Hull has two, and that’s really it. Hanzsche gets one, and Jones gets one. That’s the key – that Jones doesn’t get two or three and Hanzsche doesn’t get two or there. Because if those guys get two or three each, that can’t happen.”
3) Johns Hopkins’ offense struggles. The Blue Jays scored a season-low six goals, but still found a way to emerge with the victory.
Navy sophomore goalie John Connors made 14 saves, tied for his second-most productive game this season, but he conceded that the score could have been worse if Johns Hopkins had shot better than the 20.7 percent (6-of-29) it finished with.
“Everybody knows Hopkins has a good offense. They have guys that can shoot the ball,” Connors said. “But I really got lucky tonight with them missing the net on some of the looks that they had. The defense once again put them in positions for me to make the saves. They had low-angled shots. They didn’t have time to set their feet, so I wasn’t getting the full heat.”