April 12, 2014

Blue Jays Teach Baby Terps Lesson in Rivalry Win

by Corey McLaughlin | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter | McLaughlin Archive

Johns Hopkins long-stick midfielder Mike Pellegrino and the rest of the Blue Jays' defense held Maryland's talented freshman in check during a 11-6 win over the Terps at a sold-out Homewood Field.

BALTIMORE — Johns Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala sat down after the game and said "What a great day for lacrosse."

When you beat your most deep-rooted rival — on homecoming weekend, before nearly 10,000 fans on a beautiful, sun-splashed spring day, in a game that means much for the course of the season, and possibly the post-season — it's easy to feel that way.

The 10th-ranked Blue Jays (7-3) earned their first top-10 win of the year with an 11-6 victory over No. 4 Maryland in the 111th meeting of the programs. The final score didn't indicate how much Johns Hopkins controlled play for most of the game, causing 12 of the Terps' 17 turnovers and winning the ground ball battle 30-25 despite losing 15 of 21 faceoffs.

Maryland, which fell to 9-2, mustered only two goals by the start of the fourth quarter, both on extra-man opportunities. As Terps coach John Tillman said, they showed their age. The starting freshman attack of Matt Rambo, Tim Rotanz and Connor Cannizzaro had almost as many turnovers (five) as shots (seven) and had only a late assist from Rambo is show in the scoring column.

Meanwhile, the Blue Jays' attack of Wells Stanwick, Brandon Benn and Ryan Brown cashed in on their opportunities, combining for seven goals against the Terps' senior-laden defense, while goalie Eric Schneider made 12 saves, even as Maryland went 4-for-6 on extra-man chances. Hopkins became just the third team to score double-digits against the Terps this season and second to limit them to less than 10 goals.

After an intense week of preparation, the Hopkins defense came to play, sliding efficiently and correctly, Pietramala said, in six-on-six sets. Maryland never got into an offensive rhythm until it was too late. Midfielder Henry West scored the Terps' first even strength goal with 7:56 left in the game.

"We prepared every single day for every play they were going to run," said Johns Hopkins long-stick midfielder Mike Pellegrino, who had three ground balls, two caused turnovers and went 2-for-4 on faceoffs when he was called on to take some late with Maryland attempting to put together what would have been an epic comeback. "We knew they were going to dodge, move it, move it, dodge the other side, bang it back across. And we knew every time they banged it back across we needed to get ball pressure and every time we got ball pressure, we caused a turnover."

The Maryland coaching staff noticed the trend.

"They did a nice job of sliding and rotating and sliding again," Tillman said. "We have to look at what we're doing and who we're doing it with and see if there is a way for us to get better.

"All of the guys will tell you that we rushed things a little bit. We realize how many freshmen we're throwing out there in key roles. They've done such a good job so far this year. At times today, we just rushed it a little bit. But they're our guys. They're our best guys. I think they've responded any time we've talked to them about how they can improve. ... We have to learn some of our lessons."

Along with Pellegrino, Blue Jays junior close defenseman John Kelly had a monster day with seven ground balls and three caused turnovers alongside Jack Reilly and Rob Enright. Short-stick defensive midfielder Phil Castronova stood out as well, with a caused turnover and two ground balls.

Of the 30 total ground balls Johns Hopkins scooped, faceoff man Drew Kennedy, who went 4 of 17 on draws against Maryland's Charlie Raffa, only had five of them, which Pietramala noted in the opening statement of his post-game press conference. His friend and New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, in town for the game, sat next to his son, Stephen, in the third row among local media as Pietramala spoke.

"In the end, the story of the game to me is 30-25 ground balls. All we've heard all year long is that we're the worst ground ball team in America," Pietramala said, "and that the only reason we're in games with ground balls is because of our faceoff guy. We were 6 of 21 facing off. It wasn't one of our better days there, but we were good off the ground. That was the biggest difference in this game."

In a key second quarter, while Maryland had problems holding onto possession, Hopkins converted a pair of extra-man chances with less than three minutes left in the half, and Stanwick scored unassisted with eight ticks left to make it 6-1 at the break.

"Everyone was really jacked up. We maybe rushed a little too much," said Terps senior midfielder Mike Chanenchuk, who finished with three assists. "In the second quarter, we didn't have the ball too much. It's tough to make plays and that makes everyone grab their sticks a little bit tighter and want to make something happen. We'll go back to the film and learn from this."

Less than 30 seconds into the third quarter, Rambo drew a cross check penalty right in front of the Blue Jays bench. Hopkins didn't score on the ensuing EMO, but it didn't exactly set the right tone for the second half.

There was another moment, near the end of the third quarter, that encapsulated some of the freshman woes. Working near goal-line extended, Rotanz tried to get a pass off but his stick was checked among a couple defenders and the ball flew high and far all the way to midfield where it was corralled by the boys in blue and white.

"Defensively, we supported when we needed to support," Pietramala said. "We thought we knew how they would try to attack us. They are very methodical and take their time. One thing we talked about all week was to finish possession. We couldn't just start possessions, because they can grind you down."

Both sides spoke post-game about the big picture of the result, albeit in different forms. Tillman looked ahead to another ACC bout against Notre Dame next week, and also said about Saturday, "In my four years here, the team that came in as the underdog, needing that game looking at the big picture a little bit more, has won the game," alluding the Johns Hopkins' need for a top-10 win to help its NCAA tournament at-large cause.

Pietramala wasn't having any of that.

"I don't care about the big picture right now. All I care about is what's right in front of us," he said. "If we take care of our business, then we don't have to worry about the big picture. It's a playoff win, though, for us. What will happen from here will depend on what we do on Monday [against Mt. St. Mary's].

"We've shown we can handle failure," he said, referencing a three-game losing streak last month at the hands of Syracuse, Virginia and North Carolina before picking up wins against Albany and archrival Maryland. "Now we have to show if we can handle success. That's another big step for this group."

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