Ryan Tucker made sure that what could his final visit to Homewood Field was a memorable one.
Tucker (Gilman) scored a career-high-tying five goals and added two assists to spark No. 8 Virginia to a 16-15 overtime win against No. 20 Johns Hopkins on Saturday night. He didn’t score the game-winner — that honor went to junior attackman Greg Coholan with 2:29 — but Tucker’s three goals and one assist in the first half helped the Cavaliers enter halftime tied with the Blue Jays at 6.
“It’s always fun playing Hopkins,” said Tucker, who had just three goals and one assist in four previous meetings. “It’s a game you always mark on your calendar every year. I remember having a bad taste in my mouth two years when we were playing in the Konica-Minolta Face-Off [Classic] at M&T. So it’s good to get a win in your senior year in front of your hometown crowd. It’s nice. It’s definitely a good feeling.”
Tucker’s ties to the Blue Jays are deep. His father, John, was an attackman who was a member of the 1984 team that went undefeated and won the NCAA championship. His mother, Janine, is the head coach of the women’s program and the all-time winningest coach in school history.
“I’ve just been around this place my whole life, and I just think it’s a great institution and a great university,” Ryan Tucker said. “I just love this area. Ever since I was a little kid and coming here and playing wall ball in the gym and sneaking in with my mom, it definitely means a lot. My parents were here. It’s awesome. My brother [Devin, a junior at Johns Hopkins] just got back from a little trip, and it was great seeing him there. It was a lot of fun. I had a great time playing against a great opponent, especially with this team that we’ve got.”
Just as he dodged Blue Jays defenders, Tucker sidestepped a question about whether he had any regrets about defeating the university that employs his mother.
“She loves this place,” he said. “She’s been working here for my entire life, 22 years. She’s just a great, wonderful woman and a great coach and had a great win today. They beat Georgetown today, so very happy for her. I think she said she was going to wear one of those half-Virginia, half-Hopkins shirts. I haven’t seen her yet, but I’m sure it’s a pretty funny shirt.”
Circling back to “Three Things to Watch” …
1) Virginia’s still potent attack. Coholan had two goals and two assists for the Cavaliers, but the rest of his linemates on attack — senior Owen Van Arsdale and sophomore Ryan Lukacovic — combined for no goals on five shots and two assists. Still, that unit got considerable help from the starting midfield of Tucker, sophomore Zed Williams (four goals and one assist) and senior Tyler German (three goals). Coach Dom Starsia said Virginia is going to continue to need those efforts to overcome the season-ending knee injury to junior attackman James Pannell.
“Losing Pannell is a big blow for us,” Starsia said. “He is probably our strongest attackmen, our most sure thing. So we’re mixing and matching the pieces, and that’s what we have to do when you come into a game like this, trying to figure out how they’re going to match, where are they going to put their poles, what are they going to do with Coholan. When we put [sophomore attackman Joe] French out there, does he draw a pole and do they put a short on Owen? We’re going to try to react to it and do the best we can. We just are not going to overpower anybody over these next couple of weeks and months. We’ve just got to be smart, we’ve got to be opportunistic. I do think we are a team that shoots the ball well. It was nice to see Zed break out a little today because I feel like he’s been a little bit stymied the last couple of games.”
2) Virginia’s underrated goalie. Sophomore Matt Barrett, who entered the game ranked fifth in the country in saves per game at 13.7 and 18th in save percentage at .542, made 13 saves, including nine in the first half, on Saturday night. He didn’t get close to the career-high 21 stops he made in a 15-14 win against No. 7 Cornell on March 7, but the 6-foot, 220-pound Barrett was agile enough to stop two lasers from Patrick Fraser during a Blue Jays man-up chance in the first quarter and deny a couple wrap-arounds with his lower body in the second half.
“I saw the ball really well,” Barrett said. “They got a couple of good looks. They’ve got a really good attack. I knew they were going to get a couple good looks at the goal.”
3) Virginia’s clearing ability. Both teams misfired on three clearing attempts, which is almost unheard of for a Cavaliers team that had led the nation in clearing percentage, at 91.6 percent (120 of 131). But Virginia also had led the country in fewest turnovers per game at 11, and although the team committed 13 on Saturday night, that amount was seven fewer than Johns Hopkins'. Coach Dave Pietramala bemoaned his team’s lack of ball protection.
“We’ve got to do a better job of making plays,” he said. “You can’t win with 20 turnovers. We won 24-of-33 faceoffs, but how many did we give back after we won the faceoff? Those all add up. We make a save man-down and throw it away. We came down on offense, and we turned it over and gave it back. You can’t do that against good teams. Yeah, you can do that against lesser opponents, but you can’t do that against a top-10 team. You can’t. So to answer your question, too many.”