Dave Pietramala couldn’t remember the last time Johns Hopkins had taken 58 shots in a game as the team did in Friday night’s 15-6 rout of Siena. When informed that it was 2004 when the Blue Jays attempted 61 shots in a 17-6 thumping of Albany, the head coach quipped, “Was I there?”
Jokes aside, Pietramala, Johns Hopkins fans and media may have caught a glimpse of what the current squad is capable of courtesy of the new rules in place to help accelerate the pace of play.
With new policies limiting substitutions on the fly and calling for faster restarts, the Blue Jays scored the most goals in a season opener since March 4, 1995 when that squad edged Princeton, 15-14. The current team took at least 10 shots in each quarter Friday, including a game-high 19 in the first period.
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The debut of the opportunistic offense is no mistake. Pietramala said the new rules have influenced him to change his offensive philosophy.
“It’s very much not me,” he admitted. “You know that. I’d be very happy to win a game 4-3. Three goals are great by me. But we have a team that is made up guys where I think this favors our middies being able to get up and down. We’ve big, strong, athletic, north-south, downhill dodgers. Our attack is slick, crafty, they bang the ball around, and they can finish it – although I don’t think we did that very well tonight. In general, we think it fits us well.”
Saints coach John Svec, who was concerned with his team’s outing, also liked the new rules.
“Love it,” he said. “I think the single biggest impact of the rules -- besides getting everybody confused – is no horns, and I know that was done a long time ago. I think it’s great. It might take a little bit of the in-game coaching away, but it puts the onus on the athletes, and tonight, you saw some very good athletes on both sides. I’m extremely happy with what our guys are doing. We’re going to continue to play that way. We generated 26 shots. That’s not what we want to do. We want to be a lot more than that, but you’ve got to have the ball. So the pace itself, we’ve got to get in better shape and go a little deeper. I think that’s what you’re going to see across the board.”
To help prepare for the accelerated play, Pietramala said the team has been concentrating on improving the players’ cardiovascular conditioning.
“We’ve conditioned more than we ever have,” he said. “… We’ve run more. We’ve turned away from lifting as much as we did and put more emphasis on the condition portion of things. And I’ll tell you that one of the things I’m most pleased with is, I thought we got stronger at the end of the game, and I think we wore them down a little bit. We’ve tried to take our most challenging drill and put it at the end of practice and put it after conditioning so that we would be more fatigued either trying to play six-on-six and having to communicate and handle the ball or we’ll take our most challenging transition drill and we’ll put that at the end of the practice.”
Senior midfielder John Greeley, who assisted on two goals Friday, said the players have welcomed the faster pace of play.
“It’s been enjoyable,” he said. “[Senior midfielder] John [Ranagan] loves it. He’s a downhill dodger that likes a lot of space. A little bit of an adjustment for me. I’ve really had to work hard to kind of get my conditioning back up so that I can be out there and get the ball and go and not just hold it and look at the bench and try to get into something. So it’s been really enjoyable. We’ve been getting better and better each week in the preseason, and I’m excited to continue to work at it throughout the year.”
*The Blue Jays dominated nearly every major statistical category, including ground balls (39-17), faceoffs (16-of-23) and turnovers (just 12 to Siena’s 15). But Pietramala felt that the attack missed out on some opportunities to make a larger impact on the final score. “The place where I don’t think we played fast enough was in six-on-six situations,” he said. “And I don’t mean rush a shot. I just thought the ball at some times died in our attack’s sticks. I’ll be honest with you, I think our attack needs to perform better.”
*Greeley started on the first line with Ranagan and junior Rob Guida, just 10 months removed from tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in an 8-2 loss to Navy on April 21. Despite wet turf and chilly temperatures, Greeley said he had no reservations about testing his surgically-repaired knee. “I was cleared to go for the first day of practice this preseason,” he said. “I was practicing full-go – rain, snow, didn’t matter what the weather was. I think I’ve just gotten better and better each day. I feel more comfortable out there, and I’m just going to continue to get better each day, and the knee is only going to get stronger. I’m continuing my rehab, continuing the strength stuff, so I’m excited for the year.”
*The Saints got a big performance from sophomore midfielder Conor Prunty, who scored four goals on five shots. But senior goalkeeper Matt Sharp stole the show on the other side of the field. In his first career start, Sharp made 20 saves, including several where he stopped the ball from crossing the goal line after it had slipped past him. His play caught Svec’s attention. “I can’t tell you how proud I am of him to stand in there,” Svec said. “I never thought about taking him out. He never put his head down. He’s learning to become a leader on our team. I’m extremely proud of him and the rest of the team as well.”