Saturday’s 12-10 loss to No. 11 Syracuse (4-2) dropped No. 2 Johns Hopkins from the ranks of the unbeaten, which leaves only No. 1 Maryland (6-0) and No. 4 Cornell (6-0) as teams with unblemished records. So where do the Blue Jays (5-1) go from here?
“We just turn the page and you move on,” coach Dave Pietramala said during his post-game conference after Saturday’s outcome. “It’s certainly easier to end your week when you win a game. But as I’ve told the guys, it’s not about winning or losing. It’s about how we perform, and the performance determines the outcome. … We didn’t play very well. So we’ll go back to work, we’ll turn the page first thing [Sunday]. We’ll go back to work [Saturday], the coaches, and watch this film and break it down. On Monday, we’ll do what we do every Monday. We’ll focus on us. I think maybe what we’ll do is spend a little more time focusing on us to straighten some things out.”
The checklist figures to be a lengthy one. Aside from sophomore attackman Ryan Brown (Calvert Hall), who scored eight goals, the offense appeared to be thrown off by the Orange’s zone defense, leading to stagnant possessions and costly turnovers.
The defense allowed Syracuse players to cut through the slot and would occasionally leave a defender one-on-one rather than providing support. The 12 goals surrendered are a season worst for Johns Hopkins, which had entered the contest allowing just 7.8 goals per game.
Perhaps the silver lining is that the university is on spring break. Thus, the players and coaches can spend the upcoming week concentrating on fortifying weak areas and improving already-strong aspects of their game.
“I think we’ve got to take it in the process that we’ve been talking, not really focus on the loss, but focus on the stuff that we’ve got to do better from it,” junior attackman Wells Stanwick (Boys’ Latin) said. “I think that’s what we’re going to do this week. We’re on spring break, and in a sense, we’re all just kind of lacrosse players now. So I think we’re going to try to focus a lot this week on the little stuff and put a lot more time to try to get better and figure out all those little details that we have to get better on for next week.”
Saturday’s game began a formidable stretch in which the Blue Jays will meet No. 5 Virginia (6-1), No. 7 North Carolina (5-2), No. 14 Albany (2-3) and the Terps in succession. How the team fares in those games will provide a fuller picture of its potential, but Pietramala pointed out that Johns Hopkins is in a position similar to those of other programs.
“No national championships are won in February and March,” he said. “The team we played has two losses. We have one, and so does just about everybody else except for the school down in College Park. We’ve just got to turn the page, move forward, and get better from it. If we can get better from it, you benefit. If you can’t get better from it, you can’t learn from it and then obviously you have problems. I know this group will come Monday and they’ll respond and we’ll learn from the mistakes we made today.”
*Other than Brown, only sophomore midfielder Holden Cattoni and freshman long-stick midfielder Nick Fields scored against Syracuse. Orange coach John Desko said the zone defense limited Stanwick’s ability to find teammates in front of the net for high-percentage chances.
“We had seen so much of the Hopkins offense go to inverts and big-littles, and do a great job of picking and getting mismatches behind the goal,” Desko said. “One of the few ways that we thought we could stop it was to jump into a zone. We did that, and it turned out to be a good matchup for us, slow some of that down. It took away the inside. They’re great in the crease area, and Stanwick is great at finding those people. That was a point of emphasis for our defense, especially when we went to a zone.”
Pietramala said the Blue Jays had prepared for Syracuse to employ a zone defense, but the alignment still caused hiccups.
“I think one of the things we struggled with was getting to our spots,” Brown said. “When they jumped from man to zone, we were kind of out in left field as a group. Even me, I was over on the right side and usually I would be over on the left side. I think we need to do a better job of getting to our spots when they’re hopping in and out of zone.”
*Pietramala did not hide his displeasure with the defense, pointing out that the unit struggled with communication on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Those issues cropped up on Saturday, and Pietramala pledged to address those lapses during the upcoming week. But he also criticized himself for not sticking with a zone defense against the Orange, who did not look entirely comfortable when confronted with that strategy.
“I should take some blame here,” Pietramala said. “We probably should have zoned more. When we look back, we probably should have zoned more. But you get so hesitant to do that when you’re going to allow [junior midfielder Nicky] Galasso and [sophomore attackman Dylan] Donahue, who I think is shooting 68 percent. So you’re a little hesitant to jump into the zone.”
*Johns Hopkins dominated faceoffs as junior Drew Kennedy was credited with 21 of 25 wins and a game-high 15 ground balls. But Pietramala said the Orange proved that draws – while important – are not a prerequisite for wins.
“You also learned today that faceoffs aren’t the be-all and end-all,” he said. “Quite frankly, the four most important things from our perspective are your shooting percentage, your opponent’s shooting percentage, your save percentage and your opponent’s save percentage. We found in our best years, those are the four most important things for us. Does it help to win faceoffs? Yeah, but our opponent showed us today that you don’t have to win faceoffs to win games. They deserve a lot of credit for that. They deserve a lot of credit for overcoming it. The bottom line is, if you get a stop and you get a clear, faceoffs don’t really carry that much weight.”