Through the first three games of 2016, Johns Hopkins had committed 47 turnovers. Not surprisingly, that squad was saddled with a 1-2 record.

In 2017, the Blue Jays have turned the tables. They have given up the ball only 25 times en route to a 3-0 mark and the No. 4 ranking in the latest Inside Lacrosse poll.

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Johns Hopkins is tied for the fourth-fewest turnovers per game (8.3) in Division I, and coach Dave Pietramala cited three factors in the team's dramatic improvement in that department from last year when the Blue Jays ranked 25th with 12.7 turnovers per game.

"We're turning the ball over less in the clearing game," he said Thursday morning. "We're over 90 percent clearing the ball right now, and that's up from 84 from last year with a stretch of games that was probably below that. So we're not turning the ball over there. What's interesting is, I find us playing a little more in transition than maybe before. We've been able to get up and down a bit and score some transition goals and we afford the guys the freedom to do that, and when you play that way, you risk a few more turnovers.

"So we've handled the ball well in the clearing and transition game. And I think our offense has done a very good job. They've been careful and not careless, but they've also done it in a way where I don't think we've taken any of the creativity away from them or any of their ability to try to make a play if they think it's there."

The Blue Jays have been aided by the returns of veterans such as fifth-year seniors Connor Reed and Craig Madarasz and the addition of goalkeeper Gerald Logan, who is taking a graduate year with the team. The depth of experience has helped the players avoid making the kinds of decisions that younger players stumble into that can lead to miscues

Ball protection figures to be key Saturday, when Johns Hopkins tangles with reigning NCAA champion North Carolina (3-0), the third-ranked team in the nation. Opponents have averaged 16.3 turnovers against the Tar Heels, who have caused 7.7 turnovers per game thus far.

"You're looking at a team of Who's Who of Under Armour All Americans, and they're very well coached, and they're very talented, and they can put a lot of pressure on you in all three phases of the game – special teams, offense and defense," Pietramala said. "So certainly you would hope that you're able to secure the ball better against a team like this, but this is also a team that tends to have caused turnovers. So we've got to value the ball in a way that doesn't hurt us."

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