When Johns Hopkins junior midfielder Cody Radziewicz, junior attackman Wilkins Dismuke and associate head coach Bill Dwan walked into a room inside the Cordish Lacrosse Center following the No. 8 Blue Jays' 11-10 overtime win against No. 3 Syracuse on Saturday, Radziewicz asked Dwan if he wanted to sit in the middle of a long table facing the media.
Dwan's reply? "I guess," he said. "I've never been in here."
That's because Dave Pietramala has been handling postgame conferences over the past 16 years. Saturday was the first time the head coach had missed a game as a lower back infection prevented him from coaching the Blue Jays (4-2). Dwan, who has been on Pietramala's staff since the beginning, acknowledged it was surreal being on the sideline without Pietramala.
"It wasn't that hard because he prepared them through Wednesday," Dwan said. "He just wasn't feeling great on Thursday, and then the guys took it from there. There's a lot of great leaders on this team, and I kind of just managed it, to be honest with you. A couple times during the game when things weren't going our way, just tried to keep everybody going and keep them focused. That's all I really did. It's really a credit to him. It definitely was surreal though. It's a strange feeling."
Dismuke, who scored two goals including the game-winner with 2 minutes, 9 seconds left in overtime, said Pietramala's absence wasn't lost on the players, but they were also playing for others.
"I'd say we were kind of playing for him, but we were also just playing for Coach Dwan and Coach [Bobby] Benson and Coach [Larry] Quinn, all of the coaching staff," Dismuke said. "We were just playing for them. I know Petro's been out, but like Coach Dwan said, he prepared us through Wednesday and did a good job. Coach Dwan stepped in and did a phenomenal job throughout the rest of the week and the game today. I guess you can say it was a weird moment, but it didn't feel any different than any other game at some points."
Orange coach John Desko joked that he hoped the win didn't cause Pietramala to over-exert himself in celebration. But Desko also turned serious about Pietramala's health.
"My first was concern for him," Desko said. "I didn't know what it was or how bad it was, but I hear he might be back next week. So our thoughts are with him. He and I talk occasionally, and I have a lot of respect for him and his family and what he does. We get along well, and we've had some good conversations over the years. So my thoughts are with him. I'm happy for him."
Circling back to "Three Things to Watch" …
1) Syracuse's Dylan Donahue. The redshirt senior attackman scored one goal on three shots and chipped in two assists. That's a pretty good showing by many standards, but Donahue's three points were two fewer than his season average entering Saturday's game. Dwan praised Johns Hopkins junior defenseman Nick Fields for his ability to contain Donahue.
"Nick played great," Dwan said. "He played really under control. Donauhue is so slick. [Fields] moved his feet, got into his hands, and kind of harassed him. With a guy like that, you have to stay on his hands. If you throw crazy checks at times, he'll roll you into other things. He's so slick. He's really talented. So Nick played great. I couldn't be happier. Nick did a phenomenal job."
2) Syracuse's defense. Redshirt senior defenseman Brandon Mullins and freshman defenseman Nick Mellen blanketed Johns Hopkins sophomore attackman Shack Stanwick (zero goals and two assists) and senior attackman Ryan Brown (one goal and one assist), respectively. But that strategy opened the door for the Blue Jays midfield to total eight goals and one assist, and Mullins acknowledged that Johns Hopkins recognized what adjustment it had to make after scoring just four goals in the first half.
"I think they got a couple more possessions," he said. "I think they also kind of changed what they were doing. They started attacking from the midfield a little bit more. They probably knew we were a little slow to slide off of [Brown]. They kind of exploited that, and they had some good shots."
3) Syracuse's faceoffs. Junior Ben Williams is one of the best in Division I at his position, and he came out on the positive side of the ledger, winning 13 of 24 draws and picking up seven ground balls. But the Johns Hopkins duo of senior Craig Madarasz and sophomore Hunter Moreland combined to win seven of 11 draws in the second half and overtime. Williams was whistled for three faceoff violations in the half, and that led to the Blue Jays earning an extra-man opportunity. Although they failed to score on the man-up, Desko conceded that the pressure of incurring another faceoff violation forced Williams to rein in the ability to be aggressive at the whistle.
"Ben, he had a couple of violations, and they had a man-up as result of the third violation," Desko said. "So I think anytime the faceoff guy has the violation, they don't want to have another one. So they tend not to anticipate too much. They want to wait for the whistle. It was wiped out for overtime, but I thought both of them – especially the second one – did a very good job of facing off today. They were a lot quicker than Ben on that play and got the ball out, and obviously, that was a huge possession."