BALTIMORE | Navy coach Richie Meade eased into his seat Saturday, started to rub his temples and offered a blunt assessment of his team’s latest loss to Johns Hopkins.
“They scored too many goals,” Meade said.
Not that the Midshipmen did much to stop the shellacking.
Their atypically lousy defensive day coupled with the crisp offense Johns Hopkins regularly presents created an all-too-common outcome: Navy’s 36th consecutive setback in the lopsided series.
This one, a 15-7 defeat, was particularly ugly. It snapped the Mids’ three-game winning streak and was both Navy’s worst margin of defeat and the most goals allowed since a 2003 pummeling at - yes - Johns Hopkins.
“Our inexperience defensively showed up today,” Meade said.
So too did the offensive balance of Johns Hopkins (6-4). Steven Boyle had three goals and four assists and Michael Kimmel added two goals and two assists for the Blue Jays, who have won 48 of 52 regular-season games in April and May under coach Dave Pietramala.
So many of those past victories - especially plenty of one-goal defeats of Navy - relied on Johns Hopkins’ defensive precision. But the Blue Jays are a sharper offensive bunch this season and dissected the Mids both with their passing and outside shooting. Toss in some sound defense and it was arguably their best game of the year.
“Coming into the season, that was supposed to be our weakness, and defense was supposed to be our strength,” Pietramala said. “Quite honestly, I feel like those guys have done their job and I haven’t done mine. Today we finally played on both sides of the ball.”
It was quickly apparent that a methodical tempo would favor the Mids (9-4), whose first two goals were met with Johns Hopkins responses within 15 seconds. Still, Navy led after a quarter and made the most of their early possessions.
The Mids, however, could ill afford to offer second chances. And when goalie Tommy Phelan (15 saves) stuffed Mark Goodrich only for the Johns Hopkins sophomore to swat in an ensuing loose ball for Johns Hopkins’ lead, it portended a series of shaky plays for Navy.
“When they got a garbage goal, right there we kind of started to lose the edge, and then you’re starting to worry about so much,” Phelan said.
Soon enough, the Mids had to concern themselves with a large deficit. Boyle was the source of most of the ensuing headaches, especially since he was irked with his scoreless performance a week earlier against Maryland.
Moments after Goodrich’s goal, he spotted midfielder Mark Bryan charging down the middle unimpeded after coming on for a faceoff man. Bryan took Boyle’s pass from behind cage to make it 5-3, and Navy never got any closer.
“That’s kind of an indication you’re not paying attention,” Meade said. “They have five guys on the field and a sixth coming in, and the guy comes right down the middle and scores and we’re late checking up on him.”
While Johns Hopkins, with defeats of Maryland and Navy, seems on its way to its usual strong finish, Navy’s postseason predicament isn’t quite so clear-cut. The Mids will be the No. 3 seed in next weekend’s Patriot League tournament at Bucknell and will receive a chance to avenge a regular-season loss to Colgate and, possibly, the host squad.
It isn’t quite the same as another crack at Johns Hopkins, even if those encounters keep turning out the same way.
“Every time we play Hopkins, that’s what you think about,” said midfielder Patrick Moran (three goals). “That can’t be the No. 1 thing you think about. You have to think about how good they are, how good their defense is and how on offense you can’t make mistakes.”
Navy made plenty at both ends - and has a slightly longer losing streak in the one-sided series to show for it.