Virginia at Johns Hopkins: Three things to watch
The Cavaliers’ three-game winning streak against the Blue Jays is the current longest against Johns Hopkins. But here’s a nugget from Blue Jays sports information director Ernie Larossa: Under coach Dave Pietramala, Johns Hopkins is 3-0 at home against top-ranked opponents.
1) After tangling with the country’s best offense in Syracuse (14.6 goals average) last Saturday, the Blue Jays face the nation’s second-most prolific offense in Virginia (14.0). All six of the Cavaliers’ starting attackmen and midfielders have scored at least 10 goals each. Senior attackman Garrett Billings leads Virginia in goals (22) and points (32) and classmate Danny Glading is the team’s top playmaker with 15 assists. ESPN analyst Jack Emmer said how Johns Hopkins shadows Billings and Glading could determine the rest of the team’s defensive presence. "It would really help him [coach Dave Pietramala] if he didn’t have to slide the team defensively to Glading and Billings," said Emmer, the former Army coach who ranks second in NCAA history with 326 career wins. "If he can defend those guys even-up, that’s going to be a big factor. If he has to slide and cover them, then those middies are going to be able to take advantage."
2) One way the Blue Jays could alleviate some of the pressure on their defense is winning the battle of possession and, more specifically, faceoffs. Cavaliers senior Chad Gaudet ranks 15th in the country with a .565 faceoff percentage, and he could jump-start the team’s attack. Johns Hopkins sophomore Matt Dolente won a career-high 15 faceoffs Saturday, but he is still dealing with a hand injury and key backup Michael Powers has been hampered by a right arm injury. "There’s no guarantees that either of them will or won’t play," Pietramala said. "It’s a day-by-day type of thing, and we’ll evaluate it on Friday and Saturday again."
3) Another tactic the Blue Jays might employ is being patient on offense and working the clock and the field for quality shots. It’s a method they used successfully in last year’s NCAA tournament semifinal when Johns Hopkins upset then-No. 1 Duke, 10-9. That puts the onus on Virginia to be focused on defense and efficient on offense, according to Cavaliers coach Dom Starsia. "Will Hopkins want to go up and down the field with us or will they want to slow the tempo down a little bit, maybe play out of an invert offense?" he asked rhetorically. "We expect that’s a decision they might make. So being able – for us – to be patient both offensively and defensively is certainly going to be a factor in the game."