These two teams will meet for the first time in an NCAA tournament first-round contest. Stony Brook (7-9) is one of two participants in the 16-team field with a sub-.500 record, but the Seawolves did capture their third America East tournament crown and second in the last three years. Johns Hopkins (11-3) is 11-2 all-time in first-round games and is 8-1 in the first round under coach Dave Pietramala. Here are a few factors that could play a role in the outcome at Homewood Field in Baltimore Sunday afternoon.
1) Penalties. Stony Brook doesn’t rank highly in many departments in Division I, but the team does boast a fairly potent man-up offense. The unit is tied for 11th in the nation – with the Blue Jays – on extra-man opportunities, converting 42.9 percent (24-of-56) of its chances. Fortunately for Johns Hopkins, the man-down defense ranks 15th in the country, killing off 73.7 percent (10-of-38) of extra-man opportunities. “They’ve got some shooters, they’ve got some guys that can really shoot the ball,” Pietramala noted. “[Senior midfielder Robbie] Campbell’s shooting 40 percent, [sophomore attackman Matt] Bellando’s shooting 52 percent, [senior attackman Kyle] Belton’s shooting 52 percent, and he’s not even on the extra man. So they shoot the ball well, they’ve got a really good passer in [junior midfielder Jeff] Tundo. So they’ve got a really good group. So yeah, you’d like to stay out of the box. … So much of that is going to be how tight the game is called. If it’s called tight, we could find ourselves in a precarious position, having to defend them with one less guy.”
2) Faceoffs. The Seawolves have been one of the least successful teams on faceoffs, winning just 38.5 percent (140-of-364) this season. With junior Mike Poppleton succeeding on 61 percent (139-of-228) of his draws and freshman Drew Kennedy (53.2 percent on 25-of-47) ready to contribute, the Blue Jays figure to have a huge advantage in this area. But Pietramala wasn’t quite so willing to accept that theory. “Faceoffs are a pretty unique thing, and much of it comes down to style, what style fits the other guy,” he said. “I know they face off a pole, they’ve been doing that a bunch. So the other part to think about there is, while they may lose a faceoff, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t get possession of the ball. A faceoff man can win the draw and pick it up, and the next thing you know, the pole who’s facing off against him takes it out of his stick, picks it up, and while the team they’re playing won the faceoff, the team that has possession is Stony Brook. So we’re going to have to work very hard in that area.”
3) Clears. The Seawolves may have their issues on faceoffs, but they are one of the more careful teams in the country. They average just 13.5 turnovers per game, which ranks eighth in Division I. Much of that has to do with their prowess on moving the ball from defense to offense. Stony Brook has successfully cleared 87.2 percent, failing on just 37-of-289 attempts. “One of the things that makes them such a great clearing team is they get the ball up and out quickly,” Pietramala said. “Now that they’ve kind of settled in with [junior Sean] Brady as the goalie, when he makes a save, that defensive midfield of [Nos.] 8 [sophomore short-stick defensive midfielder Cole Millican], 13 [senior short-stick defensive midfielder Jared LeVerne] and 27 [junior long-stick midfielder J.J. Laforet] are getting up and out. LeVerne is as athletic as anybody, and Millican and those guys get up and out. So you’re going to have a high clearing percentage if you get the ball up and out because you’re not allowing a team to settle into a ride, and that’s one of their strengths.”