Postscript from Johns Hopkins at Virginia
Among the myriad of concerns swirling around No. 8 Johns Hopkins, the team has an additional worry: who will start in the cage when No. 3 North Carolina visits Homewood Field in Baltimore Saturday afternoon?
Trying to end a three-game skid against an undefeated Tar Heels squad (9-0) could be even more arduous as the Blue Jays debate whether to start senior Michael Gvozden, sophomore Steven Burke or freshman Pierce Bassett in the net.
After Saturday’s 15-6 setback to No. 1 Virginia, Johns Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala had not made up his mind.
"I need some time to think about that," he said. "Out here on the field probably isn’t the time. My job is to make the best decision for this team, and I’ll do that."
For the second time in three games, Gvozden was pulled. In a 14-6 loss to No. 6 Hofstra on March 13, Burke replaced Gvozden after the latter surrendered three goals just eight minutes into the first quarter. On Saturday, Bassett filled in for Gvozden with 3:41 left in the third quarter after he allowed 10 goals.
As in the contest against the Pride, Pietramala said he benched Gvozden against the Cavaliers because the team looked lethargic and because Gvozden wasn’t clearing the ball according to the game plan.
"We felt like we needed a little bit of a spark," Pietramala said. "We felt like the other kid’s been playing very well. You saw today, some of his ability. He’s a pretty good goalie. We had asked [Gvozden] to clear the ball a specific way, and we didn’t feel like we were making great decisions clearing the ball. So we made that decision to make the change. Michael was very supportive of Pierce. He was the first one to see him every time he came off the field. So we made that change."
Bassett made four saves, while Gvozden finished with five. Afterwards, Bassett said he could have played better, but declined to say whether he had shown that he should be the starter against North Carolina.
"I don’t know," Bassett said. "We’ll have to see what happens."
*For the second consecutive game, sophomore attackman Tom Palasek provided instant offense when he entered the game off the bench. After scoring two goals in a span of 4 minutes, 54 seconds in the fourth quarter of the team’s 10-7 loss to No. 2 Syracuse on March 20, Palasek scored twice in 39 seconds to kick-start a 3-0 run in the second quarter. Palasek has no qualms about initiating, and his speed allows him to take advantage of match-ups against short-stick defenders. Asked whether he had done enough to start Saturday, Palasek said, "I hope so. I’m here to do whatever my coaches tell me to do. But I hope so. Maybe I’ll get a chance next week. Maybe or maybe not, but either way, it’s not really up to me. It’s not a matter of who’s starting. It’s a matter of getting out there and doing something." Pietramala wouldn’t say whether Palasek or freshman Zach Palmer would start in place of the injured Chris Boland (torn right anterior cruciate ligament). "We’ve got to do the best thing for our offense, to put him in the best match-ups," Pietramala said.
*Since Chris Boland was lost for the season on March 9, Johns Hopkins has scored a total of 19 goals in three games. The offense has converted just one of its last eight extra-man situations. Pietramala tried to remain optimistic. "Is it one thing? No," he said. "To say it’s one thing would be a huge mistake on my part. It’s playing too much defense, it’s a turnover, it’s a missed opportunity, it’s pressing when you don’t have the ball, it’s a missed groundball, it’s a shot where you shouldn’t shoot. … So it’s not one thing. It’s a host of things, and it’s not an offensive thing or a defensive thing. It’s a team thing that we’ve got to straighten out. We’ve got to make some personnel changes and get back to work and remain positive with a lot of these young guys and get ready for the No. 3 team in the country." Pietramala pointed out that the shooters strayed from the game plan, which called for them to shoot low on Virginia junior goalkeeper Adam Ghitelman (10 saves). "We shot the ball today upstairs all day long," Pietramala said. "We weren’t supposed to shoot the ball up top on him."
*The Cavaliers now enter the Atlantic Coast Conference part of its schedule – beginning with Saturday night’s road game at No. 5 Maryland (6-1). North Carolina follows and then Duke at home. "We’re about to enter the meat-grinder part of our schedule," Virginia coach Dom Starsia said. "So by the time we’re done with this, I’ve used the expression ‘sickeningly familiar with each other’ in about four to five weeks from now, but it is what it is, and we’ve got to get ready to play, and we’ve got another tough game in College Park next week."