Weekend Takeaways: Sloppy Jays Need Better Focus
North Carolina coach Joe Breschi was understandably thrilled his team responded to an ugly loss to Hofstra by pouncing early, rallying late and earning a 15-11 victory at Johns Hopkins on Sunday.
His counterpart on the opposite sideline's consternation at what unfolded was equally easy to comprehend.
The Blue Jays frequently threw the ball away (17 turnovers, only nine caused) and were scattered on defense, making for a frustrating day at Homewood Field for coach Dave Pietramala.
Here are five weekend takeaways:
1. Dave Pietramala kept coming back to discipline
Frustrated doesn't begin to fully describe Pietramala after the Blue Jays' second consecutive loss.
Sure, the losing rankles him as much as ever, but it was how Hopkins stumbled — defensive breakdowns, six failed clears, a poor start and a worse finish — that left him particularly irked.
"Discipline is doing what you have to do when you have to do it," Pietramala said. "We do that sometimes. We don't do that all the time. I thought we wasted an OK effort by our offense. Eleven goals, that's a decent day at the office. I thought we were poor defensively today. Every time we'd crawl back in it, we'd give up a bad one."
Pietramala said the Blue Jays (1-2) invested considerable time preparing for North Carolina's 10-man ride, though it didn't always show in the first half. And he kept going back to how Hopkins' week of practice unfolded to illustrate what ailed his team.
Monday and Tuesday were exceptional. Wednesday was just OK. Thursday? Just a mess, and it set the stage for Sunday's struggles.
"I think we lacked a little focus this week," attackman Shack Stanwick said. "I think coach sees a little more of the defense than I do, but offensively as well we were a little unfocused. It's weird how practice plays out and that affects you in games, and I think that shows this week how practice affects the outcome of the game."
There's no fixing Sunday, no changing the result of the Blue Jays' fifth consecutive loss to North Carolina (3-1). There's also no fixing the rash of injuries and absences that have rendered Hopkins far less dynamic on offense than anticipated.
Pietramala wanted no part of that discussion Sunday, observing everyone has injuries to deal with over the course of a season. It wasn't something the Blue Jays could control, unlike the on-field discipline issue.
"It doesn't happen overnight," Pietramala said. "But doing what's right is an all-the-time thing, not a sometime thing. Hitting a line in a sprint is an all-the-time thing. Playing a pick right is an all-the-time thing. Yeah, you're going to make mistakes. I get that. But giving the appropriate effort is an all-the-time thing. Having appropriate focus is an all-the-time thing."
"Doing what's right is an all-the-time thing, not a sometime thing."
— Johns Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala
The calendar turns to March, and four weekends of familiar and capable rivals await the Blue Jays. Princeton, Towson and Syracuse (all of whom beat Hopkins last season) come to Homewood, while a trip to Virginia looms after that.
In short, Hopkins might not have a quick fix for its problems --- discipline, injuries, whatever --- but it requires some improvement soon. Suffice to say, Pietramala left little doubt what he will target in the coming days.
"The best part is we can be better," Pietramala said. "It's game three. But what's going to happen is game three is be game four and game five and we can't keep saying 'Well, it's game four.' There's got to be a sense of urgency here to be disciplined and to be consistent soon."
2. Harvard is thriving in overtime
Harvard rattled off its third consecutive overtime victory to open the season, edging Massachusetts 10-9 as Devin Dwyer scored off a Morgan Cheek feed 10 seconds into overtime. It was an appropriate conclusion; Dwyer had five goals on the day, while Cheek had five assists.
Is this early success in tight games a sign the Crimson (3-0) is finally turning the corner and could be a top-10 team this year? Or could it be argued that needing extra time to defeat Holy Cross during the week coupled with a three-goal hole entering the fourth quarter Saturday against the Minutemen are hints Harvard is only a borderline top-20 team?
It's way too soon to know the answers. But for those willing to chalk up Harvard's start to luck, consider this: The Crimson was 2-8 in overtime games between 2004 and 2015. If good luck is in play, it's a bit overdue on the banks of the Charles.
3. Yale's defense is in midseason form
Take a look at the box score from Yale's 8-5 defeat of Maryland. The first thing that stands out? A crowd of 3,162 in New Haven for February lacrosse, a testament to the steady program Andy Shay has built. The next thing? Just how typical a showing it was for the Bulldogs' defense.
Maryland sprayed 34 shots ... and put only 11 on cage. The Terrapins (1-1) also had 18 turnovers, and effectively nullifying their 13-of-16 showing at the faceoff X.
Ultimately, defenseman Christopher Keating (four caused turnovers) and the rest of the Yale defensive stymied the Terps from start to finish. Maryland entered the final three minutes with only three goals, and that's a figure that can't bode well for the Ivy League. Granted, Yale was undoubtedly fired up in this rematch of its NCAA tournament loss last year, but all signs points to another imposing year for the Bulldogs at the defensive end.
4. Don't look now, but Rutgers is 3-0
This might just be a breakout season in Piscataway, where Rutgers is off to its best start since 2011 and has handled itself well the last two weekends against Army (13-11) and Fairfield (12-6). Those aren't pushover programs, and are solid building blocks as the Scarlet Knights move closer to Big Ten play.
Rutgers enjoyed strong days against Fairfield Saturday from starting attackmen Scott Bieda (one goal, five assists), Adam Charalambides (three goals, one assist) and Jules Heningburg (four goals, one assist). But the Scarlet Knights also largely controlled groundballs (despite losing 14 of 22 faceoffs) and were perfect on clears.
There were hints Rutgers was improving late last season, when it nearly upset Maryland and then routed Ohio State to close out its slate. A four-game road swing to start March will be a fine barometer prior to the conference schedule to determine if the Scarlet Knights' fast start is a blip or a sign of greater consistency.
Highlights: Rutgers Downs Fairfield 12-6
5. The Patriot League could be wacky (again)
One glance at the first weekend of Patriot League play suggests it could be another wild year in Division I's biggest conference.
Lehigh scored the final three goals to edge Holy Cross 12-11. Colgate needed overtime to outlast Bucknell. Boston University rallied to get to extra time against Navy and needed two sessions once it got there to earn a victory. And Loyola didn't exactly throttle Lafayette.
Loyola should be viewed as the Patriot favorite thanks to those early defeats of Virginia and Johns Hopkins, and Army (which took Syracuse to the closing minutes in the Carrier Dome on Sunday) demands attention as well. Yet for those who relish regular "what the heck?!" moments, the Patriot seems as good a bet to deliver them on a weekly basis, much like last year.
Ryan Drenner, Towson: His four goals and three assists helped the Tigers earn a 10-7 defeat of Georgetown to improve to 3-0
Jake Froccaro, Villanova: The Princeton transfer proved unstoppable against Penn State, scoring eight goals and adding two assists in a 19-9 rout
Seth Oakes, Albany: Had six goals and two assists as the Great Danes dropped a 60-shot barrage on Drexel in a 20-14 triumph
Game of the Weekend
Brown 16, Stony Brook 14
A game featuring a pair of anything-but-bashful offenses did not disappoint, as Stony Brook closed within 14-13 with 6:55 to play before Brown pulled away late to seal a victory in the first major test for both teams. The Bears (2-0) have plenty of firepower in aggregate, though it was their two biggest knowns — attackman Dylan Molloy and goalie Jack Kelly — were sensational in this trip to Long Island. Molloy had three goals and six assists, while Kelly made 20 stops against the Seawolves (2-1).
Numbers of Significance
Goals allowed by Marquette in its 7-2 victory at Richmond, the best defensive showing by the Golden Eagles in their brief history. Marquette (2-0) visits Ohio State on Friday in an intriguing early-season game in the Midwest.
Seconds in overtime needed for Hofstra's Josh Byrne to bury the game-winning goal in an 11-10 defeat of Princeton. Byrne capped his five-goal day with an eight-yarder off a pass from long pole Tanner Griffin, and the junior college transfer now has nine goals in two games for the Pride (2-0).
Career goals for Myles Jones, the first Duke midfielder to ever reach the milestone. Jones was one of 10 Blue Devils to score in an 18-5 rout at Jacksonville.
Victories at Loyola for coach Charley Toomey after Saturday's 12-8 defeat of Lafayette. Toomey, who is in his 11th season with the Greyhounds, joins Dave Cottle (181 victories from 1983 to 2001) as the only coaches in program history to win 100 games.
North Carolina Joe Breschi was thrilled with the Tar Heels' win Sunday at Homewood Field.
Quote of the Week
"What a great, gutsy — gutsy, write that, gutsy — effort. It's a great lesson for our guys that if you practice that way, you're going to play that way and it'll give us the best chance to compete and win."
— North Carolina coach Joe Breschi after the Tar Heels scored the final five goals in a 15-11 victory at Johns Hopkins
How the Nike/LM Top 20 Fared
1. Notre Dame (3-0): Beat Bellarmine 11-6; Beat Detroit 14-5; next: vs. Maryland (Saturday)
2. Denver (4-0): Beat Sacred Heart 18-7; Beat Dartmouth 16-6; next: at North Carolina (Saturday)
3. Duke (3-1): Beat Jacksonville 18-5; next: Mercer (Monday)
4. Maryland (1-1): Lost at Yale 8-5; next: vs. Notre Dame (Saturday)
5. Syracuse (3-0): Beat Army 9-8; next: at Virginia (Friday)
6. Loyola (3-0): Beat Lafayette 12-8; next: Towson (Wednesday)
7. Johns Hopkins (1-2): Lost to North Carolina 15-11; next: Princeton (Saturday)
8. Yale (2-0): Beat Maryland 8-5; next: at Bryant (Saturday)
9. Brown (2-0): Beat Stony Brook 16-14; next: Massachusetts (Saturday)
10. Virginia (2-2): Lost to High Point 12-11 (OT); Beat Penn 15-10; next: Syracuse (Friday)
11. Hofstra (2-0): Beat Princeton 11-10 (OT); next: NJIT (Tuesday)
12. North Carolina (3-1): Beat Johns Hopkins 15-11; next: Denver (Saturday)
13. Towson (3-0): Beat Georgetown 10-7; next: at Loyola (Wednesday)
14. Georgetown (0-2): Lost at Towson 10-7; next: Mount St. Mary's (Tuesday)
15. Navy (2-2): Lost at Boston University 10-9 (2OT); next: at Bucknell (Saturday)
16. Penn State (3-1): Lost to Villanova 19-9; next: at Penn (Saturday)
17. Albany (1-1): Beat Drexel 20-14; next: Cornell (Saturday)
18. Marquette (2-0): Beat Richmond 7-2; next: at Ohio State (Friday)
19. Stony Brook (2-1): Lost to Brown 16-14; next: at Fairfield (Saturday)
20. Harvard (3-0): Beat Holy Cross 11-10 (2OT); Beat Massachusetts 10-9 (OT); next: vs. Duke (Saturday)
Five to Watch This Week
Towson at Loyola (4 p.m. Wednesday): Early returns suggest this might be the best that both the visiting Tigers (3-0) and the host Greyhounds (3-0) have been at the same time in quite a while. The winner will secure what looks like it will be a useful victory come May.
Syracuse at Virginia (5:30 p.m. Friday, ESPNU): The first ACC game of the season features a Virginia bunch that went 0-4 in the league last year. The Cavaliers (2-2) bounced back from a loss to High Point by handling Penn, but the Orange (3-0) figures to be Virginia's stiffest test to date. Of note: This is Syracuse's first game outside the Carrier Dome this season.
Denver at North Carolina (1 p.m. Saturday): The Tar Heels (3-1) weren't perfect against Johns Hopkins, but they were aggressive and balanced while claiming a 15-11 victory. They'll receive a sterner test against the defending national champions, who lost in Chapel Hill early last season.
Duke vs. Harvard (3 p.m. Saturday): Three games, three overtime victories for Harvard, which knocked off Villanova, Holy Cross and Massachusetts in extra time over an eight-day span to start the season. The Crimson can really demonstrate they are for real as perennial power Duke makes the trip to Long Island for this neutral site game.
Maryland vs. Notre Dame (8 p.m. Saturday): One of Maryland's best performances of 2015 came in a trip to California to face North Carolina, so it is little surprise coach John Tillman was eager to make another trip west. The Terrapins (1-1) could also use a strong showing after their loss at Yale on Saturday.
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