Blue Hens Fight to Finish Against Johns Hopkins
The microscope at Homewood Field on Tuesday was focused firmly on Johns Hopkins' offense: How would the attack look without sixth-year senior Chris Boland? To a certain extent, that question will be answered over the coming weeks, but it's clear the future is now for sophomore Brandon Benn and freshman Wells Stanwick.
Not to be lost in the shuffle, though, was Delaware's performance in the 8-6 loss. At the risk of sounding cliché, it was a game of inches for the Blue Hens, who hung with Hopkins but missed a few opportunities. They still managed scare the Hopkins' faithful.
"We were off by a few inches," said senior attackman Grant Kaleikau, who led Delaware with a team-high four points, scoring a goal and dishing out three assists. "We got a little too excited, myself included."
After playing to a 2-2 tie in the opening quarter, the Blue Jays scored five unanswered goals and held Delaware scoreless for a nearly 30 minutes. But as colleague and LaxMagazine.com editor Corey McLaughlin turned and said to me: "You won't take the fight out of these Blue Hens." Delaware mounted a rally of its own, twice scoring back-to-back goals within one minute of each other.
It was 7-6 with 5:43 remaining. What once looked like a runaway win for Hopkins — much in the fashion of its 12-6 defeat of Towson on Friday — turned into a nail-biter.
Delaware had two extended possessions in the final minutes, both of which ended on impressive saves by Hopkins goalie Pierce Bassett. Playing their second game in four days and trying to get up-and-down the field quickly to create transition opportunities, the Blue Hens didn't have enough gas in the tank to complete the comeback.
In the end, Delaware's frenzied pace was a bit too much. The Blue Hens committed 22 turnovers and were 17-of-26 on clears.
"I was really proud of the team. We competed," Delaware head coach Bob Shillinglaw said. "We've just got to clean up our game. We do try to play a little bit high-tempo and sometimes that high tempo got away from us, a couple transition things, our clearing game. I will say this: It is tough to play on a Saturday, turn around and play on a Tuesday, against a team like Johns Hopkins, no question about it. Our guys are blue-collar kids and they sucked it up. It wasn't an effort thing, that's for sure. They played their hearts out. I thought they competed all four quarters."
Shillinglaw was especially pleased with the play of redshirt freshman goalie Chris Herbert, who made a game-high 12 saves.
Said Shillinglaw: "He's doing a great job. We're really pleased. This is his first real go at starting. ... really intelligent, high-IQ guy. Skill-wise, I thought he looked really good today."
Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala praised the Blue Hens' balanced offense, which featured six one-goal scorers; in particular, he highlighted seniors Kaleikau and John Austin, and sophomore Danny Keane, whom he said "we came in very concerned about. You could see at the end of the game, he's able to handle the ball in traffic."
Pietramala offered a hypothetical: Imagine how Tuesday's game would have been perceived if Delaware upset Hopkins? "They're a team coming off a loss [13-8 to Loyola] needing a win, we're a team coming off a win probably feeling a little too comfortable," he said. "I'm glad to come out of it with a win. We had to grind it out. It's a good character win. Make no mistake, that's a good team."
But Kaleikau dismissed the idea that Tuesday's defeat was a moral victory for Delaware.
"Anytime you lose it's not a moral victory, no matter if you're playing the No. 1 team in the nation or the No. 30 team in the nation," he said. "What can you say? I'm just happy with the way we battled. But you always want to win."