May 28, 2007
BALTIMORE, MD - Two years ago, the Johns Hopkins men's lacrosse team completed a storybook season with a one-goal win over Duke in the NCAA Championship game. Today the Blue Jays capped another storybook campaign, one that played out entirely differently than the one in 2005, with a thrilling 12-11 win over top-seeded Duke before 48,443 at Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium Monday afternoon. Unlike 2005, when the Blue Jays killed the final 90 seconds with possession, this one wasn't decided until the final horn sounded.
The NCAA title is the ninth for the Blue Jays (13-4), who rallied from a 4-4 start to win their final nine games of the season. Hopkins built a big early lead, withstood a furious rally by the Blue Devils (17-3), converted the game-winning goal with just over three minutes remaining and held off a spirited attempt at the game-tying goal in the final seconds.
"There was a point this year where there was talk about us not making the playoffs," head coach Dave Pietramala stated in the post-game press conference. "These guys banded together and worked awful hard. They did some things that were absolutely spectacular and to win this game, this weekend, in that fashion was very special."
The Blue Jays built a stunning 10-4 lead at he half by playing the Devils' game: quick ball movement and transition. It took just 12 seconds for the Blue Jays to open the scoring as Jake Byrne fired home the first of his four goals off a feed from Paul Rabil. Seven minutes later it was junior Kevin Hutley who scored in traffic when Rabil threaded a pass to the crease that Huntley converted for the first of his three goals.
Duke rallied for two straight goals in a span of exactly two minutes late in the quarter as Brad Ross blistered a shot pass Jesse Schwartzman from 10 yards and Ned Crotty tied the game a short time later with an extra-man goal.
Any momentum the Devils gained with their two straight goals was gone in the final 40 seconds of the first quarter as Stephen Peyser converted with a left-handed laser on a drive from the top of the box with 39 seconds remaining and Huntley added an extra-man goal 19 seconds later to give the Blue Jays a 4-2 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Pesyer needed just 33 seconds of the second quarter to make it 5-2 and Byrne picked the corner on a 12-yard shot just under three minutes later to give the Blue Jays a stunning 6-2 lead.
After Duke's Peter Lamade sliced the lead to 6-3 with 8:58 remaining in the first half, the Blue Jays scored four of the last five goals of the quarter to push the lead to 10-4 at the half.
Rabil forced a turnover while playing defense and raced the length of the field with the ball before slipping a pass to Byrne, who blew a shot past Duke goalie Dan Loftus with 7:15 remaining and sophomore Tom Duerr, who provided a spark in the playoffs with goals in JHU's final three games, slipped inside his defender and beat beat Loftus in tight with 6:20 remaining. Crotty temporarily halted the run with an unassisted goal a minute after Duerr's goal, but Byrne's fourth of the day and a goal by freshman Steven Boyle in the final 2:21 accounted for the 10-4 halftime score.
"I'm very proud of our defense," Schwartzman noted. "I never thought we'd hold Duke to four goals in the first half, but we kept working and they (our defense) never gave up."
While the scoring stole the show in the first half, it was Hopkins' work on faceoffs that provided the ability to take control. Peyser and senior Jamison Koesterer combined to win 12-of-16 faceoffs in the first half as the Blue Jays dominated time of possession. Still, the Devils made their inevitable run.
The Blue Jays nearly beat their record for quickest goal to start a half this season (the 12-second effort in the first half bettered their previous mark of 21 seconds), but Byrne misfired on a cross-crease pass to Huntley right off the faceoff. The Blue Devils took over from there and out-scored the Blue Jays 5-0 in the third quarter.
Max Quinzani fired home a rebound with 10:50 remaining and Crotty side-armed an extra-man goal past Schwartzman 24 seconds later to make it 10-6. Ross then beat his defender into the box on a late substitution and scored on the run, while Mike Catalino worked from behind the goal and scored in tight with 7:44 remaining to trim the deficit to 10-8. An unassisted goal by Lamade with 5:21 remaining in the period made it 10-9 and neither team scored again before the pivotal fourth quarter.
After scoring 10 first half goals, the Blue Jays desperately needed something after being held scoreless in the third period. Rabil, Hopkins' only First Team All-American, provided the spark the Blue Jays needed as he dodged from the top and fired home a shot to the far post on the run.
Player of the Year Matt Danowski inched the Devils back to within one with his only goal of the game 90 seconds after Rabil's goal and Quinzani deflected a pass from Nick O'Hara into an extra-man goal with 4:37 remaining to tie the game at 11.
The Blue Jays converted the game-winner just over a minute later when Loftus came up with a save on freshman Steven Boyle, but Michael Ward turned the ball over on the clearing attempt and Rabil came up with the ground ball. He quickly found Huntley behind the defense and Huntley faked Loftus low before putting one up high to restore a one-goal lead. The 12-11 lead would hold, but not without some heroics on the defensive end.
Ross hit the post with 2:41 remaining and Schwartzman stuffed Zack Greer with 1:44 on the clock. Eric Zerrlaut was called for a slash at the same time as Schwartzman's save, giving the Devils their seventh extra-man opportunity of the game. Duke didn't manage a shot before the penalty expired and the Blue Jays twice came up with possession only to turn the ball over and give the Devils one final chance with 40 seconds remaining.
After a Blue Devil timeout the Blue Jays forced everything to the outside and wouldn't budge from Greer inside. Ross's seven-yard shot from the side was kicked-away by Schwartzman with eight seconds left and a Quinzani shot from 15 yards as the clock expired skipped wide to set off a wild celebration.
"Eric did a great job of not sliding off of Greer," Schwartzman stated of the final Duke attempt. "He (Ross) got a shot off and I really didn't read it too well. I couldn't get my stick there so I just kicked my leg out and just prayed that the ball would hit my leg and it did."
Schwartzman posted 15 saves and earned his second tournament Most Outstanding Player award. Rabil scored the one goal, dished out a career high five assists and matched his personal best with six points. Byrne capped his career with a four-goal, one-assist effort and Huntley fired home three goals, including the game-winner.
Peyser scored two goals, added one assist, won 9-of-14 faceoffs and grabbed a game-high nine ground balls. Koesterer won 8-of-12 faceoffs and grabbed three ground balls. Joining Schwartzman on the All-Tournament Team were Byrne, Rabil, Peyser and Zerrlaut, who limited Greer to just one assist. Not on the All-Tournament team, but worthy of a selection, was sophomore Michael Evans, who limited Danowski to one goal and one assist. Greer and Danowski entered the game with 187 points combined on the year.
Crotty (3g, 1a) and Lamade (2g, 2a) led the Devils with four points apiece and Ross and Quinzani both scored twice. Loftus posted 10 saves, including five in the second half as Duke made its comeback.