CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Johns Hopkins’ 14-8 victory over eighth-seeded Virginia in an NCAA tournament first-round game on Sunday at Klockner Stadium propelled the team to its 13th quarterfinal since the field was expanded to four rounds for the 2003 campaign.
It was especially meaningful for many Blue Jays players who had suffered the indignity of being part of a 2013 squad that contributed to the program missing out on the NCAA postseason for the first time since 1971.
“Last year not getting in, it was tough to sit at home with all of these games going on and knowing that we weren’t playing,” junior attackman Wells Stanwick said. “That kind of drove us all year, just knowing that it was going to be step-by-step and game-by-game, but the end goal was getting here. The records weren’t going to matter, the stats weren’t going to matter. It was going to be playing as a team, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to be going to the quarterfinals.”
The NCAA tournament seemed like a distant prospect after three consecutive losses in the middle of the season, but the team won five of its last six games to earn an at-large bid. Coach Dave Pietramala said Johns Hopkins never gave in to the whispers outside the locker room.
“This is a group that at the beginning of the year, nobody gave much of a chance. Nobody,” he said. “When we had lost three games, everybody was ready to write us off. These guys have handled success and failure the same way. They just showed up the next day and came back to work.”
Circling back to “Three Things to Watch” …
1) Virginia’s attack stifled. The Cavaliers’ starting attack of senior Mark Cockerton, sophomore James Pannell, and junior Owen Van Arsdale combined for just four goals and one assist against Johns Hopkins in Virginia’s 11-10 overtime decision on March 22. Cockerton (two goals and one assist) and Van Arsdale (one goal and two assists) fared much better in Sunday’s rematch, but Pannell was shut out by Blue Jays junior defenseman Robert Enright. Pietramala said the defense kept the same matchups from the regular-season meeting.
“If you look at the score sheet, to hold Cockerton to two and Van Arsdale to one and Pannell to none, that’s a big deal,” Pietramala said. “That’s the difference in the game. Their attack is their strong point, and we were able to handle that.”
2) Virginia’s Matt Barrett commits a gaffe. The freshman finished with 10 saves, but a mental error proved costly. With the Cavaliers (10-6) leading 2-0, Barrett attempted to clear the ball to the offense. But an underthrown pass was intercepted by senior attackman Brandon Benn, and he fired the ball from just inside the midline into a net that had been vacated by Barrett.
“I didn’t know if I was going to run with it, and Wells yelled, ‘Shoot it!’ So I just shot it,” recalled Benn, who finished with four goals. “I think it kind of killed the first part of the game. It was 2-1, and all of that kind of went away, and we were able to keep the momentum.”
Barrett blamed himself for trying to force a pass to junior midfielder Ryan Tucker (Gilman), but said he did not think that the mistake greatly altered the game’s momentum. “It was the first goal,” he said. “It was a mistake, but I really wasn’t worried about it. It happened to them the last time we played them. So it was just a mistake.”
3) Johns Hopkins’ Wells Stanwick lights up. The Blue Jays (11-4) are 10-0 when the Boys’ Latin graduate amasses more than three points as he did with six points on five goals and one assist against the Cavaliers. Stanwick was masterful at pressing the issue against sophomore defenseman Tanner Scales, who played Stanwick as a feeder, not a scorer. Virginia senior defenseman Scott McWilliams, who primarily shadowed senior midfielder Rob Guida (three assist), said Stanwick’s strength is his vision.
“We tried not to let him get his hands free,” McWilliams said. “When he can get his hands free, he’s going to make plays. We did a good job for the most part, but he’s a good attackman.”