After No. 10 Johns Hopkins pulled within two goals of No. 6 North Carolina at 10-8 just 1 minute, 53 seconds into the fourth quarter Saturday, the Tar Heels’ Joey Sankey hung up long-stick midfielder Michael Pellegrino in front of the net and stood behind the cage for about two minutes.
Blue Jays fans screamed for a stalling call on Sankey, but officials – sticking to a recent rule change – did not assess the stall until Pellegrino stepped out of the crease. As the 30-second shot clock wound down to zero, Sankey scored off a pass from senior attackman Pat Foster (Boys’ Latin). North Carolina went on to win, 13-9.
“I felt bad for our other five guys because their job is to just keep moving and try to get open,” said Sankey, who scored a career-high five goals and tied a career-best seven points. “Pellegrino for Hopkins wasn’t coming behind. I’ve never done something like that before. It was definitely a credit to the five other guys keeping it moving up top.”
Blue Jays coach Dave Pietramala did not seem to object to the officials’ interpretation of the rule. Instead, he lamented an opportunity to regain possession and give the offense a chance to close the gap to one goal.
“That’s not easy to do,” he said. “To stay with those guys and pick five-man screens for over a minute, we had to do that. But we do it and we don’t reward ourselves and make the play. Those are the defining moments that I’m talking about. We do a good job and we have an opportunity and we don’t cash in. … Those are the plays we have to make to win these games, and we haven’t made them.”
Circling back to “Three Things to Watch” …
1) Turnovers hurt Johns Hopkins. For the eighth time in eight contests, the Blue Jays (5-3) committed more than 10 turnovers. They gave the ball away 16 times – including 10 in the first half – and misfired on four clears. On the other hand, North Carolina committed 10 turnovers and failed on just two clears. Those gaffes haunted Johns Hopkins, which is averaging 15.4 turnovers thus far.
“In the end, too many mistakes to think you should win,” Pietramala said. “I just thought that when things got tough, we made some critical errors at critical points of the game.”
2) Blue Jays fail to take advantage of fast start. After falling behind 3-1 to Syracuse and 3-0 to Virginia in the first quarter, Johns Hopkins ended the first quarter against the Tar Heels (8-2) with a 4-3 edge and enjoyed a 7-4 lead at one point in the second quarter. But the offense ran into a drought of 22:30 that spanned the final three periods, and North Carolina scored six unanswered goals during that stretch.
“We’ve been in a position to win the Virginia game, to win the Syracuse game, and we were in a position to win this one for a while until we started to do those things,” Pietramala said of the team’s errors. “And those things just pile up and they kill you.”
3) Ground balls don't help Blue Jays. Johns Hopkins scooped up 27 loose balls to the Tar Heels’ 22. But North Carolina outdueled the Blue Jays, 14-8, on ground balls in the second half, and senior faceoff specialist R.G. Keenan played a role. The Boys’ Latin graduate won 5-of-12 draws in the second half, led the team in ground balls with five, and scored a goal off a faceoff win with 1:55 left in the third quarter in his first significant action since missing five games because of a leg injury.
“Our goal was to try to use different guys, start off with R.G.,” coach Joe Breschi said. “He struggled early, but at least he got into the flow of the game. We threw some different looks at them and [junior Drew] Kennedy. And then in the second half, we went back with our senior. He’s a hell of a player, and it just felt right, it felt better.”