April 28, 2010

Johns Hopkins Lives to Fight Another Day

by Gary Lambrecht | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online | Game Blog

Johns Hopkins players celebrate after a goal Wednesday in the unranked Blue Jays' 13-6 win over No. 11-ranked Towson.

© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

Related: Jays Freshmen Thrown into Fire

BALTIMORE -- Johns Hopkins seniors Steven Boyle and Michael Kimmel knew the score all too well. Win or else. Beat No. 11 Towson, or get ready to finish a painful season and graduate, knowing you’ll be remembered as stars on a team that failed in a way that Hopkins simply doesn’t fail on the lacrosse field.

Well, there is still a pulse over on University Parkway. Facing exclusion from the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1971, unranked Hopkins came out desperate and determined at Homewood Field on Wednesday night, and produced its biggest victory of this frustrating season with a rout over a crosstown rival that thought it had a chance to do something rare.

Behind Kimmel, Boyle and junior attackman Kyle Wharton, the Blue Jays played with the urgency befitting a team on the brink of disaster. They scored the game’s first eight goals, shut out Towson in the first half, and rolled to a 13-6 victory before 1,318 wind-chilled spectators.

Hopkins (6-7) is not out of the woods yet. The Blue Jays must knock off No. 6 Loyola in their regular season finale on May 8 to reach .500 and be considered for an at-large bid to its 39th consecutive NCAA tournament.

Beating a Towson (6-6) team that was riding a five-game winning streak was a good start. It marked the 15th straight victory over Towson. Hopkins improved its lopsided record in the series to 35-3, and it did so by taking out the Tigers with a first-half haymaker and taking an 8-0 halftime lead.

The Blue Jays desperately needed a quality win, and they got it with authority. Kimmel led the way with three goals and an assist, collecting the 11th hat trick of his career. Boyle and Wharton each had two goals and an assist. The Blue Jays also won the ground ball battle decisively, 28-19.

“You try not to think about [the elimination factor]. You just try to do the things you’ve always done, in terms of practicing and preparing,” Boyle said. “It was important that we started fast. The biggest thing was keeping our foot on the gas.”

“Our season was on the line, and you saw a lot of character in guys out there. Our backs are completely against the wall,” Kimmel said. “Who knows if we’ll get a chance at the playoffs? If we lose tonight, it’s summertime. That weighs on us, but it motivates us.”

Not since 1992 have these schools met with Towson ranked higher than Hopkins, which had lost six of its previous seven games -- the last two after blowing leads of 3-0 to Maryland and 5-0 to Navy. It was obvious in the early going which team was readier to play.

In a chippy first half colored by 13 penalties, including seven by Hopkins, Towson was a bundle of nerves, turnovers, selfish play and poor shot selection. The Tigers shot 0-for-15 in the first half, whiffed on five extra-man chances and made life pretty easy for Hopkins freshman goalie Pierce Bassett, who made nine of his 12 saves in the first half and smothered a flurry of shots down low.

“They were so up and excited,” said Towson coach Tony Seaman, whose Tigers can clinch an automatic NCAA bid next week by winning the Colonial Athletic Conference tournament after winning the regular season title. “Everybody has been telling them for a week this is your chance [to beat Hopkins]. Then we threw it away in the first half. I had to check their uniforms at halftime to see who they were. Too many guys were trying to do their own thing.”

Five different players scored to get Hopkins off to a 5-0 lead early in the second quarter. By then, Towson was losing its composure that was a big part of nine first-half turnovers and its first scoreless half in over a year. Kimmel then took a feed from Boyle and buried a 10-yarder from the right wing with 9:19 left in the half. Following an unassisted goal by Tom Palasek, Boyle then curled around the crease from behind and scored to make it 8-0 with 4:40 left.

By then, the Tigers were cooked, and the Blue Jays were still alive.

“This just means we’ve got another chance to play for something other than pride,” Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala said.

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