May 11, 2014

Johns Hopkins Advances Past Virginia in NCAA Return

by Drew Goodman | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

Johns Hopkins returned to the NCAA tournament after a year off and earned a solid road win Sunday over Virginia. (Kevin P. Tucker)

In-Game Blog Replay

 

Charlottesville, Va. - In the hours leading up to his team's NCAA tournament clash with eighth-seed Virginia in Charlottesville, John's Hopkins head coach, Dave Pietramala reminisced, and began to draw comparisons his current group, and one of his best teams during his 14 years in Baltimore.

"I felt like I felt in 2007 when we won the national championship," Pietramala said of his feelings on the bus ride and the time at the hotel. "I walked into the dinning hall that morning and [associate head coach] Billy Dwan looks at me and goes 'Man, I've never seen them so loose.' I had never seen this group so loose before."

Pietramala was anxious heading into the game, thinking that the team's laid-back mentality would allow them to play well, or make the Blue Jays suffer same fate it did back on March 22nd, when JHU fell to the Cavaliers, 11-10 at Klockner Stadium.

This time around, Hopkins kept its foot on the gas, en route to a convincing 14-8 triumph over home-standing UVa.

With the win, Pietramala ties hall of famer, Bob Scott with 115 career wins at Johns Hopkins.

The victory sends JHU to the NCAA Quarterfinals against Duke, one year after the Blue Jays missed the tournament all together.

Hopkins relied on two big runs to collect its ninth post-season win over rival, Virginia.

Junior, Wells Stanwick scored three of his game high, five goals in the final 20 minutes of play, to slam the door on the surging Cavaliers. The Wahoos cut the Hopkins lead to 9-8 with 5:29 left in the third quarter, but Stanwick answered just 11 seconds later to return to momentum to the blue and white. The Jays ended the contest on a 5-0 run, and held Virginia scoreless for the final 20:29 of play.

"[Offensive coordinator] Bobby Bensen puts us in really good spots in the offense and basically you just capitalize off of your spot," Stanwick noted. "When we played [Virginia] the first time, we kind of knew that they don't want to slide, and we were going to make them slide. We focused on that all week this past week."

Even though he is from Baltimore, Sunday's game served as a homecoming as sorts for Stanwick. His older brother, Steele is the all-time points leader in UVa history and earned USILA First Team All-America honors twice during his time in a Cavalier uniform. The younger Stanwick took in several games at year at Klockner as a spectator, while his brother rewrote the Virginia record book. Steele, who is now an assistant coach for the Hopkins women's lacrosse team talked to his brother throughout the week about playing in Charlottesville, and the opportunities ahead of him.

"It's definitely a little ironic [playing in Klockner]," Stanwick noted. "I see him all the time at Hopkins and he's always trying to help me out and give me some tips."

The Blue Jays grabbed six-goal advantage in opening half, thanks to an 8-0 scoring run between the first and second quarters. The barrage started in an unusual manner, as

Brandon Benn intercepted a pass from Virginia goalie, Matt Barrett at midfield, and fired towards the open net, to put JHU on the board with 9:38 left in the period. Up until that time, the Blue Jays had barely touched the ball, and Benn's goal provided the opening that the visitors needed.

"When I picked it off, I was going to run with it, but Wells [Stanwick] had yelled at me to shoot it," Benn said of the midfield goal. "That kind of killed the first part of the game. We kind of came out a little hesitant, and once it was 2-1, that kind of went away, and we were able to keep the momentum after that."

The floodgates opened following the first of Benn's first four goals, as the Blue Jays overwhelmed the Cavalier defense in the first half. The large contingent of Hopkins' supporters in attendance chanted, "we want more" after every goal, and the visitors obliged. Stanwick's second score of the afternoon with 8:24 left in the second quarter capped the run, and forced Virginia head coach, Dom Starsia to call a timeout to talk things over.

Unlike the first meeting, the Jays kept the UVa defense on its heels with precise passing and patient offensive sets. Hopkins' ball movement as a team dissected the Cavalier 'D' and allowed JHU to score the bulk of its goals from close range. Following a television timeout in the second half, the Blue Jays possessed the ball for over three minutes, before Benn finally found the back of the cage. Benn and Stanwick were deadly in the two-man game, and the Cavaliers had no answer.

"It's who we are," Pietramala said. "We have skilled attackmen, and we have guys that can handle that ball with great IQs that might not be the greatest athlete, but you play to your strengths and try to stay away from your weaknesses. One of our keys this week was to handle the run; theirs and ours. We knew they would go on a run, and we just had to overcome it with poise and composure."

The Blue Jays were forced to regain their equilibrium after Virginia opened the game with an inspired effort on both sides of the field. Mark Cockerton polished off a six-shot possession for the Wahoos to give his team a 1-0 in the first quarter. Just over a minute later, Cockerton moved into a tie with Garrett Billings in career goals (125) with his second score of the day.

After being shell-shocked by Hopkins' run in the first half, the Cavaliers opened the third quarter with the same intensity as the first five minutes of the contest. Virginia outshot the Blue Jays, 12-1 in the opening six and a half minutes of the frame, as it began to mount a comeback. Tyler German's goal with 5:29 left in the third cut the Hopkins lead to just one, before Stanwick kick started the final 5-0 run only seconds later.

The Cavaliers had a difficult time maintaining possessions in the final stretch of Sunday's game, as Hopkins held a 10-6 advantage on ground balls in fourth quarter. Faceoff man, Drew Kennedy came up big in the end, winning seven of the last 10 draws.

"I thought we got outplayed by Hopkins today. I just felt like we couldn't quite make a shot when we needed to, or get a stop when we had to," said Starsia following the defeat. In the past week, we referred to Hopkins as one of our ACC teams, because we were so familiar, and we have played important games with them over the years. It wasn't lost on me that every team ACC team that played that won the first time lost the second time around. I think it's a stiff chore to beat a quality team for the second time in one season."

Virginia shot a dismal, 16 percent for the game, and it was a particularly tough afternoon for the Cavalier starters, with the exception of Cockerton. Ryan Tucker shot 1-8 for the game, while senior, Rob Emery was 0-6. Sophomore, James Pannell saw many opportunities that he liked, but Smithtown, NY native failed to convert on any of his nine attempts.

UVa will now miss the National Semi Finals for the third consecutive year, the first such stretch since 1989-1993. The departing UVa seniors were on the 2011 NCAA Championship squad as freshmen, and Starsia says that the class of 2014 is a special group that has overcome unparalleled amounts of adversity during their time in Charlottesville.

"The senior group is a great group that has been through a lot," Starsia said. "They got us back on track this year. In what was never easy, they kept us heading in the right direction and they were a pleasure to work with. As a coach, you can't really ask for a lot more than that."


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