The traditional strength of the Johns Hopkins program is showing up at the right time.
With Sunday's 14-8 victory over eighth-seeded Virginia in an NCAA tournament first-round game, the Blue Jays (11-4) have limited six of their last seven opponents to under 10 goals. And with the Cavaliers going scoreless for a 20 minute, 29 second stretch and an 18 minute, 17 second stretch, the defense has shut out opponents for 15 minutes or longer 15 times this season.
Coach Dave Pietramala said Johns Hopkins had better defensive showings in a 13-8 win against Albany on April 4 and an 11-6 victory over Maryland on April 12, but said the team improved as the contest developed against Virginia (10-6).
"I thought early on, [senior goalkeeper] Eric [Schneider] did a very good job," Pietramala said on Wednesday morning. "He made one or two saves and forced them to think a little bit more about their shots. I thought they were good saves, and I thought as the game unfolded, we improved. Where I thought we were much better defensively was at the end of the game. I didn't think we got off to a great start defensively at all. I thought through the middle, we got better and then down the stretch at the end, we were much better."
Part of the Blue Jays' strategy was giving the Cavaliers shots from the perimeter, which allowed Schneider to react and make a game-high 12 saves. That tactic figures to change, however, when they tangle with top-seeded Duke (14-3), which ranks second in Division I in scoring at 14.8 goals per game and boasts six starters with at least 18 goals each.
"This is by far the best offensive group we will have seen to date," Pietramala said. "They have six offensive guys that they put on the field at the same time, and you are forced to defend all six, and if you play them such where you kind of sit back in a zone and you just pack it in, watch what happened to Rutgers, and they hung 17 [goals in a 17-8 rout on April 19].
"I watched that game, and they can shoot the ball from the perimeter. If you don't take that approach and try to stretch a little bit and get aggressive, then you wind up giving up goals on the inside to [senior attackman Josh] Dionne or on the backside to [sophomore attackman] Case Matheis or their first-team All-American behind the goal in [senior] Jordan Wolf. This is a group that is going to be a tremendous challenge to defend."