No. 8 Johns Hopkins fell to No. 11 North Carolina, 15-11, on Sunday without four of its top eight midfielders available.
Sophomore Joel Tinney is serving a one-year suspension for violating an unspecified NCAA rule, senior Connor Reed and freshman Alex Concannon will sit out this season with torn ACLs, and freshman Drew Supinski suffered an undisclosed injury during the week.
But coach Dave Pietramala wasn't buying those absences as reasons for the Blue Jays' two-game tailspin.
"You want an answer or an excuse because no matter what, it's going to appear as an excuse," he said. "We have what we have. Nobody cares. Nobody's crying for us. We have what we have. Does it matter that [junior midfielder John] Crawley didn't practice all week? No. [Senior attackman Ryan] Brown? No. [Junior attackman Wilkins] Dismuke? No. We were concerned we wouldn't have them. None of that matters. It's not en excuse. They all played. [Sophomore attackman Shack Stanwick] is playing banged up. He played.
"Everybody has their issues. They're not just here at Johns Hopkins. Injuries are a part of athletics. What injuries do is, they provide you with an opportunity to overcome. They provide someone else with an opportunity to step up."
Johns Hopkins (1-2) shuffled its first midfield Sunday. Senior Holden Cattoni was bumped down to the second line, and junior Kieran Eissler and freshman Kyle Marr were promoted to the top unit. Marr scored a goal, and Eissler added an assist.
Stanwick (Boys' Latin), who led all scorers with two goals and five assists, said the absences did not impact the offense.
"We run the same offense, whether we have guys out, guys in," he said. "Like Coach said, every team is dealing with injuries, so there's no excuse. Every single team has injured guys, and every single team has to deal with it. So there's no excuse at the end of the day."
Circling back to "Three Things to Watch" …
1) Setting up early on defense. Johns Hopkins surrendered a season-worst 15 goals to North Carolina (3-1). The Tar Heels got eight goals from their starting attack of senior Steve Pontrello, junior Luke Goldstock and sophomore Chris Cloutier, five goals and one assist from starting midfielders Michael Tagliaferri and Patrick Kelly (Calvert Hall), and two goals and three assists from second-line midfielder Shane Simpson. Pietramala said there were occasions when defenders strayed from the game plan, which created chances for North Carolina.
"Right now, I think the thing we have to address is our discipline," he said. "I know [No.] 22 [Simpson] got a goal left-handed, but you know what, he's a right-handed player. We've got to be disciplined and not go to him and force him to beat us. We've got to be disciplined in our pick play. We worked on it all week. We executed sometimes and we executed at other times. The biggest issue is our discipline, and that is a product of us, and we've got to be a lot better there."
2) Caring for the ball. Johns Hopkins committed a season-worst 17 turnovers, and several of them occurred on clears. After failing to clear the ball on half of their eight chances in the first half of a 9-8 loss at Loyola Maryland on Feb. 20, the Blue Jays misfired on four of 11 clears in the first two quarters against North Carolina and six of 23 for the game. Tar Heels coach Joe Breschi said the team was aware of Johns Hopkins' 78.1 percent clearing rate in its first two games.
"We knew they were under 80 percent, 79 percent, coming into the game," Breschi said. "Coming into the year, I wanted to do other ways to get some transition. We've had 10-man ride for some time now. Six ridebacks, and I think three resulted in goals. That's a big part of who we are. We've just got to continue to be smart about it. It puts pressure on a team to clear after getting a stop."
3) Pouncing on man-up chances. Johns Hopkins converted on two of four extra-man opportunities, but North Carolina killed off a one-minute man-down situation after taking a 2-0 lead in the first quarter and another one-minute penalty spanning the first and second periods. The Tar Heels have successfully killed off 14 of 18 man-down chances and did so against the Blue Jays without senior short-stick defensive midfielder Jake Matthai, who did not play because of a rolled ankle.