Virginia preparing for Johns Hopkins' methodical approach
One factor in Johns Hopkins’ ability to extend top-ranked Syracuse to double overtime last Saturday was the Blue Jays’ control of the pace of the game, slowing the tempo and possessing the ball for long stretches of time.
Johns Hopkins’ next opponent, No. 2 Virginia, is prepared for a similar tactic when the Cavaliers visit Homewood Field on Saturday.
“That’s the dilemma you face, and what the discussions in the office are, if their approach is the same, do you go out and kind of flush it out?” coach Dom Starsia said Tuesday. “The problem in a game like that is Hopkins limits their own opportunities to score goals, too. I’ve been on both ends of that situation. Syracuse is a very good defensive team. So they’re not an easy team to get chances against. I remember when it was only two years ago when we went up and played Hopkins to 16-15. I think we were up five at halftime or something like that, and Hopkins came roaring back. So I don’t think game can be so easily predicted in terms of how it’s going to play. We don’t expect that Hopkins will necessarily pick the same approach that they took against Syracuse.”
And when Virginia does get the ball to its offense, that unit will have to solve a Blue Jays defense that ranks first in Division I, surrendering just 5.4 goals per game. Starsia said a young group that was exposed last season has gotten exponentially better.
“I think they’re dramatically improved defensively,” he said. “I’m very impressed with their athletes on defense right now, and I think the play they’re getting from [senior short-stick defensive midfielder Tim] Donovan and [freshman short-stick defensive midfielder Phil] Castronova has really helped them. I felt like that was the part that was unusually vulnerable this past year or so for Johns Hopkins, and it looks to me like they’ve shored that up quite a bit. Not that the defenders are all non-descript, but they’re all big, strong kids. They move their feet, and it looks like a very solid group overall.”
If there’s an opponent that has bedeviled Johns Hopkins recently, it’s the Cavaliers, who have won the last six meetings and 10 of the last 14 games against Johns Hopkins (5-2). Starsia said he had no explanation for his team’s run of success, which he compared to his program’s skid to Duke, which has won nine of the last 10 meetings against Virginia.
“I can’t really explain it,” he said. “It goes to the fact that we hadn’t beaten Duke for eight times in a row going into last year’s ACC [tournament semifinal] game. Some of these things are just unexplainable to a certain extent. Some teams match up better against others. People would ask me, ‘How come you haven’t beaten Duke?’ I say, ‘Well, it’s because they’re a good team.’ I don’t want to seem evasive, but I’m not sure I have a suitable answer. It’s not about talent, it’s not about coaching. It may just be one of those statistical quirks, but whatever it is, I hope we can figure a way to keep it going.”