After a hot start, a tumultuous second quarter for the Blue Jays ended all hopes of starting off 2019 on the right foot. The Towson University Tigers used a run of nine unanswered goals to overcome a 4-2 first quarter deficit. The Tigers never looked back in their 17–8 upset of No. 7 Hopkins last Saturday. Blue Jay head coach Dave Pietramala discussed the impact of Towson’s second quarter rally on the team in his postgame press conference.
“I thought we gave in. I thought we were in a round where our opponent punched us, and punched us, and punched us, and punched us, and we didn’t answer,” Pietramala said.
Coming into the game, it was known that the Jays would have their hands full in the face-off matchup. Towson returns senior standout Alex Woodall, while Hopkins, after losing long time face-off man Hunter Moreland to graduation, was searching for a new face-off man this offseason. Unfortunately for the Blue Jays, Woodall had his way, winning 21 of 28 face-offs, which allowed the Tigers to play “make it, take it” for most of the second and third quarters.
Hopkins tried throwing different players at Woodall in an attempt to disrupt his rhythm. Sophomore midfielder/face-off man Kyle Prouty had the first crack at Woodall, and freshman midfielder/face-off man Matt Narewski followed, both with limited success. At one point in the second quarter, even sophomore midfielder/face-off man Weston Narewski and freshman midfielder Owen McManus tried their luck against the senior Woodall. In the end, the Jays could never build any momentum nor control the game through the face-off, which put pressure on the defense to make some stops to keep the Jays in the game.
Viewed as the strength of this year’s squad, the defense returned all three long pole starters and senior defensive midfielder Danny Jones. They looked the part in the first quarter: disruptive and aggressive. New goalie, sophomore Ryan Darby, looked like a seasoned vet between the pipes. However, in the second quarter things went south.
The Tigers proceeded to provide an onslaught of the Blue Jay defense and finished the game with 50 shots, 32 on goal. Turnovers in the clearing game doomed several defensive possessions. The Jays finished 20 of 25 on clears and had 19 turnovers overall. Towson capitalized on several transition ground ball opportunities as well and finished the game with 43 ground balls to the Jays’ 18. With that said, Darby did finish the game with 15 saves, an encouraging stat for the young goalie.
On the offensive end, the midfielders provided most of the scoring punch. The three starting midfielders, junior Forry Smith, sophomore Connor DeSimone and sophomore Jack Keogh, produced the first three goals of the game and scored or assisted on five out of the eight total goals for the Blue Jays.
Senior attacker Kyle Marr and junior attacker Cole Williams are both expected to have great seasons; however, Saturday’s game was one to forget for both of them. Both players ended the game with only one goal and looked frustrated for most of the day. Freshman attacker Joey Epstein, donning jersey number 32, which was previously worn by recent graduate Shack Stanwick, had some ups and downs as any freshman would in his first collegiate start. Epstein got off to a hot start in his Blue Jay career with a goal and an assist in the first quarter but finished with no further points.
While early season blowouts are hard to swallow, the season still has a long way to go. Pietramala commented on his mindset moving forward.
“Everyone is going to jump off the ship now. And that’s fine. I really don’t care. They can all jump off for all I care. And maybe rightfully so after today’s performance. But I gotta tell you this is not the time to panic. This is the time to dig in and do things we know we can do,” Pietramala said.
Just last year, the Blue Jays were beaten 12-5 by rival Loyola University Maryland early in the season and still rebounded with another Big Ten Championship and an NCAA Quarterfinal berth. A lot of things can happen from now until Championship Weekend on May 25-27.
As for what comes next, the Battle of Charles Street comes to Homewood Field this Saturday, as the Blue Jays start the home schedule with a bang. The No. 2 Loyola Greyhounds and Tewaaraton Award frontrunner, senior Pat Spencer, make the short trek for the 56th meeting between the two teams. Dating back to 1939, the Blue Jays have dominated the rivalry with an all-time record of 48-7 against the Greyhounds.
However, Loyola has won two out of the last three meetings with the one Blue Jay win being a moment most Blue Jay fans will remember for a long time — recently graduated Joel Tinney’s stunning fake flip in overtime two years ago. The Greyhounds are coming off a 17–9 win over No. 6 University of Virginia last Saturday in a game where Spencer had five goals and two assists.
Nevertheless, last weekend’s results will mean nothing come this Saturday as all bets are off in a rivalry game. On Saturday, Pietramala discussed the upcoming matchup.
“I can’t look at next week yet. I gotta look at right now and Monday. With all due respect, Loyola is not my concern right now. Johns Hopkins is my concern right now. We need to straighten things out in our own house,” Pietramala explained.
All eyes will be on Baltimore to see if the Blue Jays can do just that and pull off the upset or if Loyola can prove two years ago was a fluke and keep their train rolling toward Philadelphia. Get your seats early and buckle up Blue Jay fans, it’s going to be a fun one.