Johns Hopkins men's lacrosse coach Dave Pietramala said Joel Tinney rarely asks for a possession off during games. So Pietramala has had to make an executive decision to give the junior midfielder a breather.
And for a brief moment, Tinney's facial demeanor will change.
"He's a guy that when you do that, you kind of get the eyes a little bit," Pietramala said. "Not disrespectfully, but he wants to be out on the field. He wants to be in those important moments, and you can't have enough of that on your team."
When informed of his coach's observation, Tinney laughed before acknowledging he does get frustrated when he can't convince Pietramala to send him back on the field.
"It's just a look letting him know that I think I can go," he said. "I never want to come off the field. That's just the competitive spirit in me. But with him having won championships before and him being the head coach, he knows what's best. Although I may not be happy in the moment, I know that in the long run, it's going to pay off."
Tinney has certainly proved his value to the No. 8 Blue Jays (7-4, 2-1 Big Ten), who welcome Michigan (8-4, 0-3) to Homewood Field on Saturday. The Ontario, Canada, native ranks third on the team in goals (16) and points (20), is tied for fourth in caused turnovers (five), and leads the team in ground balls (26) courtesy of his runs as a wing on faceoffs.
Tinney, Princeton senior Zach Currier and Virginia sophomore Ryan Conrad (Loyola Blakefield) headline a group of midfielders who are emerging as threats on offense, defense and faceoffs. Tinney's development has drawn the admiration of ESPN analyst Matt Ward.
"I love his game," said Ward, a former Virginia attackman who won the Tewaaraton Award in 2006. "He is a throwback, do-it-all midfielder who is on the wings on faceoffs, is tough as nails, is very skilled offensively. … He's one of the top three middies in the country. I think if you asked coaches to form a midfield, he would be in that conversation. I just love his game. I love the fact that he's a leader and that he plays a tough-nosed brand of lacrosse. If you want someone to make a play, he'll make whatever play you want, and from a midfield perspective, that's all you can ask for as a coach."
As a freshman two years ago, Tinney finished with 28 goals, 10 assists, 31 ground balls and nine caused turnovers as a wing player on faceoffs en route to being named Big Ten Rookie of the Year. While matching those offensive numbers this spring might be a stretch, Tinney said he cares more about Johns Hopkins achieving success in pursuit of a national championship.
"Numbers change all the time," he said. "Whereas before, I might have been needed to do more offensively in my freshman year, we have so much talent on the offensive side of the ball that they change and situations change and goals change. So it's more about seeing where we can go as a team."
There are no numbers from Tinney's sophomore season because he was forced to sit out a year to serve an NCAA-mandated suspension for an undisclosed violation. Tinney was allowed to practice with his teammates and served as a member of the scout team, but he gritted his teeth while watching the Blue Jays labor to an 8-7 record and a first-round exit from the NCAA tournament.
"It actually made the losses worse," he said of his suspension. "I was healthy and I was on the sidelines, and it was almost worse losing games because I felt that there was no reason that I couldn't help my teammates except for something that I was responsible for. So it was definitely tough. But I feel like I've done a lot of growing up, and it's put me in a position where I can be successful now."
Fueled by the memory of that lost season, Tinney made an imprint nationally in his first two starts this year with a goal off a hidden-ball trick against Navy and another off a fake flip against Loyola Maryland. But aside from his offensive wizardry, Tinney brings a certain comfort level to his teammates.
"Obviously, it's nice," junior faceoff specialist Hunter Moreland (Boys' Latin) said of seeing Tinney on the wings. "He's a great athlete and a great lacrosse player. He really provides a lot of options. His athleticism allows him to get to the ball quicker and help me out. If we don't get it, he can put the ball on the ground and he can also play defense. So it's great to have him on the wing."
Pietramala said the onus is on him to use Tinney selectively and preserve his legs and health for the future. But Tinney acknowledged that even if he is fatigued, he would not say so.