Postscript from Towson at Johns Hopkins
Moments after Johns Hopkins’ 13-6 rout of No. 19 Towson at Homewood Field on Wednesday night in what amounted to a must-win game for the Blue Jays, one fan could be heard screaming, "We’re alive!"
That’s true, but the players and coaches are well aware that there is no room for error or a mulligan at this late stage of the regular season. A loss to No. 6 Loyola in the season finale on May 8 would doom Johns Hopkins (6-7) to a losing record and automatically take the team out of consideration for making a 39th consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
"You try not to think about it," senior attackman Steven Boyle said. "You’ve just got to come out and do the things you’ve always done. You’ve got to come out and practice hard and watch film and study the opponent."
For seniors like Boyle, midfielder Michael Kimmel and defensemen Sam DeVore and Matt Drenan, this season has been especially difficult because they don’t want their careers to be remembered for ending "The Streak."
"We won a national championship as freshmen [in 2007], but you’re always remembered for what you do as you go out the door," Kimmel said. "… If we don’t make the playoffs, it’s obviously a huge disappointment, and that hasn’t happened in the last 38 years here at Hopkins. It definitely weighs on us a lot, but it also definitely motivates us."
A victory over the Greyhounds won’t necessarily guarantee Johns Hopkins a spot in the NCAA Tournament, but the Blue Jays hope a resume that includes an RPI of 14 and a schedule that included contests against No. 1 Syracuse, No. 2 Virginia, No. 3 Maryland, No. 4 North Carolina, No. 6 Loyola and No. 7 Princeton will be enough.
"All [Wednesday night’s win] means is that we’ve got another chance to play for something other than pride," coach Dave Pietramala said. "We have a chance to play for something next Saturday. And I truly believe that we are playing for something. If we have the good fortune of winning it, I think we have every right to expect to be considered. Do I think we’ll get in? I have no idea, but we’d have two things which a lot of people don’t have, and that’s two top-10 RPI wins."
*For the first time in almost three weeks, Johns Hopkins collected more groundballs than its opponent, scooping up 28 loose balls to the Tigers’ 19. In the previous two contests, the Blue Jays lost that battle, 31-21, in a 10-9 loss to the Terps and, 35-21, in a 9-8 overtime setback to the Midshipmen. The players spent about an hour on Monday working on various drills centered on groundballs, and Pietramala was relieved to see their work play out against Towson. "If we didn’t win groundballs tonight, I might’ve jumped off a building because we’ve spent the last three weeks talking about groundballs, and it’s killed us in the last two games," he said. "I went into halftime and the first thing I said was, ‘Good job, keep it up, but we’re only winning by three groundballs.’ Then we pulled away in the second half."
*Johns Hopkins’ next game is 10 days away, which is the longest lay-off of the season for the players and coaches. It won’t be vacation, however, as players will participate in some form of practice on the weekend, and Pietramala and some of the coaches will travel to Denver to watch Loyola take on the No. 18 Pioneers at Invesco Field. before playing against Loyola. Asked if the long rest can be viewed as positive or negative, Pietramala said, "I can’t tell you until we play. If we play well, then it was great. If we play lousy, then you’re going to look at me and go, ‘Why the hell did you schedule it that way?’ But we have a lot of academic stuff right now. It’ll give us a chance to really take our time and look at Loyola, and we need to do that. It’ll be an important game plan. We’ll get to go scout them in person. I saw them against Georgetown with Coach [Bobby] Benson, and then we’ll see them again against Denver. That will be important and it will give us a chance to rest some bumps and bruises and take care of some academics. We’ll practice a little bit this weekend. We won’t take every day off. We can’t afford to. But we’ll be able to work on things that we need to work on instead of just worrying about Loyola."
*It’s no secret that Kyle Wharton owns one of the fastest shots in the game, but even the junior attackman was surprised that his second goal of the evening with 10:47 left in the fourth quarter ripped a portion of the net. Both Boyle and Kimmel said they had never seen anything like that, and Wharton said he had never done that. "Not on one of those big nets," he said. "Those are pretty thick. There must have been something wrong with it because there’s a little slice. They already said they’re billing me for it."
*Towson (6-6) did not show the poise or efficiency that it had built during its five-game winning streak. The first half was especially torturous as the offense committed turnovers on its first three possessions, senior midfielder Will Harrington doubled his season total in penalties, and fifth-year midfielder Christian Pastirik rushed two shots from long distance that Blue Jays freshman goalie Pierce Bassett easily gobbled up. "We tried to have three or four separate players try to do their own thing at the beginning of the game and took some ridiculous shots from way outside and did all the things we weren’t supposed to do," coach Tony Seaman said. "In the second half, we charactered up and figured out how we can play again and how we played the last five weeks. I thought we played pretty well in the second half. I’d like to forget the first half for the rest of my life."
*Life won’t get easier for the Tigers, who will travel to Long Island to take on a No. 16 Hofstra team that is mathematically eliminated from the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament, but is very much in the running for the NCAA Tournament. "They’re out of the [conference] tournament, but they’re still in the [NCAA] picture if they beat us," Seaman said. "So we get the No. 2 desperate team in the world. It causes you to play a little better sometimes when that happens."