No. 9 Johns Hopkins has enjoyed a 5-1 start in which the team has outscored its opponents by an average of 8.0 goals in the wins; the only hiccup was an 11-8 loss to Princeton on March 1.
Saturday’s road contest against No. 10 Syracuse (3-1) will be a measuring stick of the Blue Jays’ development since that setback to the Tigers, coach Dave Pietramala said.
“I would say that this is an opportunity to see how we’ve grown since we’ve kind of started this,” he said Wednesday. “I would say it’s an opportunity to see if we’ve improved since our Princeton game where we had every opportunity to win that game, but the bottom line is we didn’t. We felt like we left a lot on the table. So we’d like to see if we’ve grown from that experience. So it is a measuring stick when you’re looking at Syracuse. We’re not going to look any further than that. That’s what is right in front of us, and we’ve always said that we take what is right in front of us and deal with that. So it is an opportunity to measure yourself against a quality opponent, a well-coached opponent. It’s a chance to go on the road against a Top 10 team and find out where you are, what you need to continue to work on and develop and how you’ve grown.”
The game against the Orange is the first of perhaps the toughest stretch of opponents in the country. After Saturday, Johns Hopkins will face No. 11 Virginia (5-2), No. 4 North Carolina (3-3), No. 19 Albany (3-2), No. 1 Maryland (5-0), Navy (3-4) and No. 14 Loyola (4-2).
As arduous as that schedule is, Pietramala conceded that he does look forward to these contests.
“On one hand, it’s a stressful time, and you want to perform well. On the other hand, this is a really exciting time of the year around here,” he said. “The weather starts to turn, the opponents are ranked opponents, they’re traditional rivalries. So absolutely we look forward to this. But people ask the question, and this comes as no surprise to us. This is year in and year out. So when we get to this point, we know, ‘OK, here comes the meat of the schedule.’ It’s of no surprise to our guys. It’s nice that we’re in the exam period this week, and we head into spring break next week. So I think the timing of that is decent. It gives us a chance to really hunker down and focus even a little bit more on the tasks at hand. Everybody loves to talk about this stretch, but we’ve come to a point where it’s commonplace for us now. For our seniors, they’ve dealt with it for three years. They know what it’s like. They know the challenges that we face with it. But really the focus has to be on the challenge that we face on Saturday afternoon in the Carrier Dome. What comes after that is really at this point unimportant. What’s important is today’s practice and the preparation we put in for what will come on Saturday afternoon.”