May 28, 2005
PHILADELPHIA, PA - Johns Hopkins played its 81st NCAA Tournament game in men's lacrosse at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia Saturday afternoon. It's probably safe to say that none of the first 80 were anything like the Blue Jays' dramatic, 9-8 overtime victory over Virginia in the NCAA Semifinals here today. The Blue Jays led big, trailed late, forced overtime with just 1.4 seconds left in regulation and got the game-winning goal from arguably the most unlikely hero.
Senior defensive midfielder Benson Erwin scored his fourth goal of the season with 50.7 seconds remaining in the first overtime to lift Hopkins (15-0) into its second NCAA Championship game in the last three years. Erwin's transition goal came after Blue Jay goalie Jesse Schwarztman's save on a Kyle Dixon shot with one-minute remaining in overtime was corralled by senior defenseman Tom Garvey, who quickly found freshman midfielder Paul Rabil. Rabil carried the ball into the Virginia zone and found Erwin unmarked 12 yards in front of the goal. Erwin took several steps and fired a low shot past Virginia goalie Kip Turner to set off a wild celebration that seemed all but impossible just moments earlier.
"There were a lot of guys running on and off the field at the time and I was about to run off the field myself before I realized we had numbers," Erwin noted in the post-game press conference. "I just closed my eyes and threw it ... fortunately, it went in."
Virginia (11-4) had taken what appeared to be a final one-goal lead with just 12.9 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. The Cavaliers gained possession on the faceoff after a Kyle Harrison goal had tied it and held the ball for nearly the final 4:25. The Blue Jays had one quick attempt at a clear, but turned the ball over. After a timeout with 2:37 remaining the Cavs ran the clock down until there were just 37 seconds remaining and then called another timeout. They then worked the ball to junior Matt Ward, who beat a double team and fired a shot past Schwartzman with just the 12.9 seconds remaining.
Junior Greg Peyser won the ensuing faceoff for the Blue Jays and raced down the right side into the offensive zone, where he skipped a cross field pass to sophomore Jake Byrne, who quickly dodged to his left and beat Turner through the five-hole with 1.4 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter to force Hopkins into its fourth overtime game of the season.
Both teams had chances to win in overtime as the Cavaliers fired three shots on Schwartzman, who came up with two saves, while Turner turned away a pair of shots before Erwin finally won it with his fourth goal in the last five games.
Virginia had rallied from a 6-3 deficit with a four-goal run in the fourth quarter, which was played under some wild weather conditions. Back-to-back goals in a span of just eight seconds jump started the spree as Ward scored his second goal of the game with 13:07 remaining on a 10-yard shot that beat Schwartzman low to the far post. On the ensuing faceoff Virginia's J.J. Morrissey came up with the ground ball and found freshman Ben Rubeor, who quickly fired a high shot past Schwartzman from seven yards out.
The Cavaliers tied the game for the first time on the afternoon five mintues later when Ward scored his third goal of the game as a Blue Jay penalty expired to make it 6-6. The Cavaliers had possessed the ball and pressured the Blue Jays for over three minutes before drawing a hold on Erwin on the side of the crease. Exactly 30 seconds later Ward scored as Erwin was released to tie the game. Junior Matt Poskay gave the Cavaliers their first lead of the game 3:15 later when senior Brendan Gill threaded a pass from behind the goal to a wide open Poskay on the backdoor and Poskay quick-sticked a shot past Schwarztman.
Before play could resume lightening forced the teams to the locker room as the heavy rain and wind turned into a thunderstorm. A 46-minute delay ensued during which the Blue Jays regained their composure.
"We showed great maturity and senior leadership," Pietramala noted. "When we went into the locker room there was no panic. We had been in a rain delay in a close game at North Carolina and that helped us win today." The senior leadership and experience in the same situation was evident early after the teams returned to the field.
The Blue Jays needed just 20 seconds to tie the game after the delay as senior midfielder Kyle Harrison won the faceoff after a scramble situation and came down and beat Turner with a right-handed jump-shot high inside the far post. That set the stage for the thrilling final moments of regulation and Erwin's overtime heroics.
In a game that couldn't have been more different than the first semifinal, an 18-9 Duke win over Maryland that saw 13 goals scored in the first half, the Blue Jays and Cavaliers relied on defense early as neither scored in the first quarter and a total of just three goals were scored in the first half as Hopkins carried a 2-1 lead into intermission.
After a game-opening scoring drought that lasted 25:11 the Blue Jays broke through with back-to-back goals to jump to a 2-0 lead. Senior Joe Malo finally broke the ice with an uassisted goal with 4:49 remaining in the second quarter. He started at the top of the box, drove hard to the goal and slipped a shot past Virginia goalie Kip Turner for his first career goal in the NCAA Tournament. Senior Peter LeSueur pushed the lead to 2-0 with just under three minutes remaining in the period as he drove to the goal from behind and beat a late slide with a shot just inside the far post.
Virginia finally got on the board with 1:06 remaining before halftime when Ward beat Schwarztman from 10 yards out with a low shot just inside the far post. Junior midfielder Kyle Dixon drove down the left side and drew a slide before finding Ward, who wasted little time getting the Cavaliers on the board.
The Blue Jays struck quickly in the second half as Virginia's Ricky Smith drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty with two seconds left in the second quarter and the Blue Jays opened with possession in the third quarter. Senior Kyle Barrie needed just 10 seconds to push the 2-1 lead to 3-1 as he took a pass from freshman Kevin Huntley and blew a shot past Turner. A goal by Byrne less than a minute later made it 4-1 and Malo added his second goal of the game just under four minutes later to make it 5-1.
Virginia got back in the game with back-to-back goals in a span of just 47 seconds midway through the third quarter. Senior John Christmas drove to the goal after Garvey slipped and he beat a late slide by the Blue Jays to make it 5-2. Morrissey scored what was likely the goal that turned the game around a short time later. Turner came up with a nice save with the Cavaliers playing a man-down and Morrissey scooped up the ground ball and went the length of the field to score the first man-down goal the Blue Jays have allowed this season.
The Blue Jays appeared to grab the momentum back late in the period as senior Matt Rewkowski scored his team-best fifth extra-man goal of the season off an assist from freshman Paul Rabil with 3:41 remaining. Despite several chances to push the lead to 7-3 the Blue Jays couldn't capitalize and carried the 6-3 lead into the fourth quarter.
As the teams were preparing to start play in the fourth quarter the weather took a turn for the worse, as did the Blue Jay fortunes as Ward and Rubeor's goals in the first three minutes ignited the wild final period that was just long enough for the Blue Jays to snatch victory from what looked like the jaws of defeat.
Notes: The three goals the teams combined for in the first half were the fewest ever in an NCAA Semifinal, while the scoreless first quarter was the first ever in the semifinals ... the Blue Jays held their seventh straight opponent to three goals or less in the first half and the Cavaliers' scoreless first quarter marked the 14th time Hopkins has held an opponent scoreless in a quarter this season ...the 15 wins for the Blue Jays this season are a school record (prevous record - 14 in 1980, 1984 and 2003) ... the 54 wins amassed by the seniors on the Johns Hopkins team are the most by a class in school history (previous record - 53 by the class of 1981) ... Hopkins moves into its 16th NCAA Championship Game and second under head coach Dave Pietramala ... Hopkins is 7-8 all-time in the NCAA Championship Game.