CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Johns Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala didn’t need to be prodded into discussing his team’s willingness to push the tempo Saturday.
Not after an 11-10 overtime victory at No. 1 Virginia.
Not after quietly bristling at how his team was labeled plodding and methodical in recent years.
“I’m just tired of hearing it,” Pietramala said. “My job, [Virginia coach] Dom Starsia’s job, every coach’s job in America isn’t to please the media, it’s to win games and it’s to put our kids in the best position to be successful as men and as players. If that means playing slow, then that means playing slow.”
The Blue Jays (8-0), of course, can play slow if they so choose. It just so happens this edition is plenty capable of pushing the pace, and did so against the Cavaliers (8-1).
Hopkins’ last two goals were the latest bits of evidence these Blue Jays are a bit different from some of their predecessors. Lee Coppersmith, all 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds of him, charged in from midfield to tie it with 44 seconds left in regulation.
In overtime, Rob Guida set up the winning goal on an invert, eventually sending it to John Greeley (6-foot-3, 215 pounds) and then on to John Ranagan (6-foot-3, 210 pounds) for the score.
Hopkins always has had some size and speed. It wasn’t that long ago that Paul Rabil roamed the Blue Jays’ midfield. But Pietramala has collected plenty of it, and it’s continued to mature after a rough 2010 and a much-improved 2011.
“They’re clearly more athletic, faster, more experienced than they’ve been the last couple of years,” Starsia said. “They’re big. Their defensemen can all defend. They have a good group of middies there. They push the ball up the field. Those weren’t things you were saying about them in every instance the last couple of years. That’s one of the best teams in the country, clearly.”
Maybe the best. Barring a stunning turn of events, Hopkins and Virginia will swap places in the national polls Monday. The Blue Jays, the bluest of lacrosse bluebloods, will be No. 1 for the first time since the March 3, 2008, rankings.
They could stay for a while, too. Hopkins swept Princeton, Syracuse and Virginia this month, the first time it did so since its perfect 2005 season. The Blue Jays are smart and well-prepared, as usual. They’re also as athletic as anyone, as Saturday’s victory against a team with its share of size demonstrated.
“I was pleased to see we matched up athletically, because I measure a lot of where we are athletically against that team because I think [Starsia] recruits athletic guys,” Pietramala said.
Elsewhere in the area Saturday:
*No. 7 Maryland suffered its third straight regular-season setback against North Carolina, an 11-10 decision. The Terrapins (5-2, 1-1 ACC) might have suffered another loss in the process. Midfielder Kevin Cooper (three goals, six assists) was ejected for fighting with 40 seconds remaining.
NCAA lacrosse rules stipulate a player ejected for fighting is suspended for the next game, which should leave Maryland without Cooper for Saturday’s meeting with Virginia. Cooper cross-checked the Tar Heels’ Greg McBride, who took exception and tackled Cooper before Cooper delivered a few punches.