BALTIMORE, MD. - Ninth-ranked North Carolina bounced back from a tough loss to Maryland last Saturday by bolting to an 11-3 lead after three quarters en route to a 13-8 victory over defending NCAA champion Johns Hopkins at Homewood Field on the JHU campus in Baltimore before a crowd of 4,250 fans. It was Carolina's first win at Johns Hopkins since the 1994 season, breaking a six-match road losing streak to the Blue Jays.
The last couple of weeks have been strange for the Johns Hopkins Blue Jays as its been 14-day period that saw them drop three straight overtime losses. Three overtime losses was more than they had lost since head coach Dave Pietramala took over the reigns at his alma mater for the 2001 season (going 13-2 in that stretch in overtime games). A team that a month ago looked nearly unstoppable in a 14-9 win over Princeton (it was 10-1 at the half) went from riding the tide from a national championship to a 3-0 start. From there three straight overtime losses sent the Blue Jays precariously into a match-up with North Carolina, who had also fallen on hard times the past couple of weeks dropping games to Duke and Maryland after starting 5-0.
If the Blue Jays needed a chance to get into a rhythm, the Tar Heels weren’t going to give them it. Midfielder Ben Hunt got Carolina on the board early with back-to-back unassisted goals and got the ball rolling as they rattled off four straight goals to jump out 4-0.
“We looked like we were ready to play at the beginning of the game,” said North Caolina head coach John Haus.
“Quite frankly, the last three or four games we’ve struggled somewhat. We haven’t played real well. This was the first time we had a full week to prepare and I think it paid off for us. The players did a great job. The assistant coaches were awesome and it certainly is a big win for us. We haven’t won here since 1994 and just beat a great team. A team with a tremendous amount of tradition and they’ve got a great coaching staff. We’re excited to come out of here with a win.”
It wasn’t that Hopkins didn’t have their opportunities. They outshot the Tar Heels 11-7 in the first quarter, but a theme quickly emerged as Carolina goalie Grant Zimmerman contributed 6 of his 14 saves in the first quarter to keep Hopkins off the board.
“You have to take your hat off to Grant. He played a great game,” said Hopkins head coach Dave Pietramala.
“In the games that we watched, he's been hot and cold, and when he's had to be, he's been pretty hot. I don't think he's had one of his better games against Maryland, so you had to know he would bounce back with a great game, and he absolutely did.”
Carolina’s early run really set the tone for the rest of the game.
“I think right now coming off of three overtime losses we’re mentally fragile,” said Pietramala. “When they jumped on us early it hurt us. I’m certain that was part of their gameplan, was to get on us early. Every time we seemed to try to claw back and do something we’d do something ill-advised. It starts with the coaches. It starts with the head coach.”
Pietramala’s observations were right on. In the 2nd quarter, Paul Rabil made a nice right-to-left split dodge and ripped a shot in. Rabil’s goal with 5:47 left in the second quarter cut the UNC lead to 4-1 and was a chance for Hopkins to climb back in. Shortly after, Hopkins had possession and called a timeout. Off the timeout, midfielder Stephen Peyser went to throw a pass but the Carolina defense made a nice play and deflected the ball. This led to a Carolina clear attempt, but Hopkins fought and got the ball back immediately. As they were bringing it up, they tried to push transition. In the unsettled situation, a Hopkins midfielder forced the ball into an attackman only to have it knocked away. This led to North Carolina defender Tim Kaiser having the ball in his stick streaking upfield. With no one sliding to him and no one demanding the ball, Kaiser went to the goal and put UNC up 5-1 heading into the half.
To start the second, Hopkins scored quickly on an unassisted Michael Doneger shot and got the ball right back. Carolina’s defense held tight and pushed it into a fastbreak which Gavin Petracca finished. Another Doneger goal made the game 6-3, in a game that had the ability to go either way. Carolina attackman Bart Wagner sniped a sidearm shot to the far corner and made it 7-3. The Carolina midfield then took over and rattled off the next four goals as the Tar Heels put the game out of reach 11-3 heading into the fourth.
“We tried to create a little bit more from our midfield today,” said Haus. “Ben Hunt certainly got us kick-started. He’s a very talented player. A shortstick got caught on him a couple of times. I think they were poling Nick Tintle so Ben was able to take advantage of that. It gives you a lot of confidence when you can bang a couple early goals. I think we got up 4-0 and that sort of set the tone a little bit for us. And we felt good about what we were doing and we hadn’t felt good in the last two or three weeks so that was a confidence builder.”
The efficient Carolina sharpshooting and offensive barrage gave Hopkins’ goalie Michael Gvozden a lot to deal with in cage. Pietramala pulled Gvozden early in the game putting in former Carolina goalie and current Hopkins grad student Trey Sheain. Sheain came up with a save early, then Gvozden was put back in. He was again replaced with just a few minutes left in the third for Sheain who gave up a goal. Gvozden would come back later in the game and made three saves in the fourth quarter, one a very acrobatic save on a nice shot to the far pipe.
“I pulled Mike so I could give him an opportunity to catch his breath. He’s our guy,” said Pietramala dispelling and potential goalie controversy rumors, because there aren’t any.
“We put Trey in, and Trey went in and made a good save the one time. The next time he goes in he gives up a goal, that’s a lot to ask of a young guy who has not really been warmed up, hasn’t been in the game. And Michael, I just felt like he needed to step back, catch his breath for a second. We put him back in the game and later in the game he actually played a little bit better.”
The bottom line for the Blue Jays was pretty straight forward for Pietramala.
“I don't care who we played today,” he said.
“It wouldn’t have mattered if we played a JV team today. The way we played we wouldn't have won, and we didn't deserve to win. We got outcoached, we got outplayed, we got out everything.”
He later added, “we’ve just got to do a better job with everything we’re doing right now. Everything. You can’t pick one facet of the game, we have to do a better job at everything.
“To do things on the field, you’ve got to pay attention to the details, you’ve got to follow directions. I don’t think we didn’t play hard. I thought we played hard. Our kids don’t do that. We’re just not playing well right now. You can point to a lot of things. One, you give Carolina credit. I thought they shot the ball very well, in particular Hunt shot the ball pretty well. He’s a big, strong athletic kid. It’s interesting the two areas that we were really worried about, facing off and clearing, I don’t have the stats, but I think we did a better job in both areas. We spent a lot of time working on that. Now the other part of the game, our half-field game was not very good at either end today,” said Pietramala.
The Blue Jays won 15-of-24 faceoffs, had ten more shots than Carolina (40-30), were nearly perfect clearing it 11-of-12 times, and was successful on 1-of-2 man-up opportunities. However, they had 16 turnovers to Carolina’s 9, and had six less saves (Zimmerman’s 14 to Gvozden and Sheain’s combined 8). Individually, Stephen Peyser had a solid day at the faceoff circle winning 11-of-13 for Hopkins as UNC still continues without faceoff specialist Shane Walterhoefer who is out indefinitely.
“If you look we generated almost 40 shots, that’s a lot for us. I thought we generated good shots. What are you going to do when a goalie plays well? You keep shooting and I thought we did. We had some opportunities, some we missed and some he stole, but I’m not the coach that I don’t blame shooting. It’s a fundamental part of the game. And we faced a goalie today that was better than we were. Did they win just because of Grant Zimmerman? No. They won because their whole team played well. They played intelligently…I will not say it’s our shooting. We didn’t do a good job. We didn’t play well, at all. And we got what we deserved,” said Pietramala.
North Carolina heads back home for a battle with Virginia. After a lackluster performance against Maryland today, don’t expect the Cavaliers to make it easy for North Carolina to snap their 16-game losing streak against ACC foes.
Hopkins now sits in a precarious, yet not all that unfamiliar, position. They’re 3-4 just past the midpoint of the season. Last year there 4-1 and lost three straight games to be at 4-4 with five games left. Their schedule is nearly identical to last year and whereas last year they beat Hofstra by one and Syracuse by eight, this year they lost both of those in overtime. For the second year in a row they lost to Virginia and North Carolina. Now they travel to Durham to play a Duke team that has revenge on their mind. From there they have battles with Maryland and Navy on the horizon. With six games left, Hopkins has to win at least four of them to qualify for the NCAA tournament at 7-7. In DI this year, that’s no guarantee. Expect Pietramala to have his troops ready to go.
“You look at teams that have won championships in the next year, they’ve struggled,” said Pietramala. “You look at Virginia, they win the championship, they struggle. You look at Syracuse and same thing. It’s very obvious that we’re not immune to it thought everybody would like to think that we are. We’re not and we haven’t done a good enough job handling success, but again, everything starts one place, it starts at the top with Dave Pietramala. And obviously I have to do a better job for this team.”
|Michael Doneger||(2, 0)|
|Kevin Huntley||(2, 0)|
|Stephen Peyser||(1, 1)|
|Paul Rabil||(2, 0)|
|Steven Boyle||(0, 2)|
|Dave Spaulding||(1, 0)|
|Kyle Wharton||(0, 1)|
|Mark Goodrich||(0, 1)|
|Michael Gvozden||7 (0.368)|
|Trey Sheain||1 (0.500)|
|Ben Hunt||(3, 1)|
|Sean Delaney||(2, 2)|
|Bobby Mcauley||(1, 1)|
|Michael B Burns||(2, 0)|
|Cryder Dipietro||(1, 1)|
|Brian Burke||(0, 1)|
|Billy Bitter||(0, 1)|
|Bart Wagner||(1, 0)|
|Nick Tintle||(1, 0)|
|Gavin Petracca||(1, 0)|
|Tim Kaiser||(1, 0)|
|Fletcher Gregory||(0, 1)|
|Grant Zimmerman||14 (0.636)|