March 17, 2012

Johns Hopkins Gets Syracuse Monkey Off Its Back

by Gary Lambrecht |

Junior midfielder John Ranagan scored two goals and dished an assist Saturday in No. 2 Johns Hopkins' 11-7 victory over No. 6 Syracuse.

BALTIMORE -- Before the opening faceoff in the 50th meeting between these two schools, the Johns Hopkins men's lacrosse team appeared to be a more experienced, skilled and cohesive unit than Syracuse.

For 60 minutes at Homewood Field on Saturday, the second-ranked Blue Jays proved it all convincingly against the sixth-ranked Orange.

Sophomore attackman Brandon Benn led the way with four goals and one assist, while the Johns Hopkins starting midfield produced nine points in its best showing of the season. And with their reliable defense doing its typically effective job, the Blue Jays snapped a five-game losing streak against the Orange by cruising to an 11-7 victory before 5,970 fans.

Johns Hopkins improved to 7-0 for the first time since 2005 -- the year the Blue Jays won the NCAA title by going undefeated. The Blue Jays next will travel to No. 1 unbeaten Virginia on Saturday.

The renewal of one of the game's storied rivalries wasn't all Johns Hopkins, but it was mostly about the Blue Jays exerting their will over a Syracuse (3-2) team that showed its youth, inexperience and a lack of playmaking ability. The Orange, who were led by sophomore attackman Derek Maltz' three goals, never led. Syracuse trailed Johns Hopkins for the game's final 51 minutes.

Any hope Syracuse had essentially evaporated in the third quarter, when Benn scored three goals, the Blue Jays' defense threw a shutout and Johns Hopkins turned a 7-4 halftime lead into a commanding 10-4 advantage.

"I'm thrilled to get that monkey off of our back, particularly after hearing all week how big of a monkey it was," said Blue Jays head coach Dave Pietramala, referring to the five-game losing skid to the Orange that includes the 2008 national championship game. "Any competitor doesn't want to hear that."

Johns Hopkins answered loudly with a poised, efficient performance. The Blue Jays made 11 of 36 shots, scored on two of five extra-man chances, won 13 of 20 face-ffs behind junior Mike Poppleton (12-for-18), were successful on 18 of 19 clearing attempts and got nine saves from junior goalie Pierce Bassett.

The starting midfield of John Ranagan (two goals, one assist), Rob Guida (2g, 2a) and John Greeley (2g, 1a) ran by defenders and peppered sophomore goalie Matthew Lernan. Even freshman attackman Wells Stanwick, who sat out the previous three games with a hand injury, got into the act. Running primarily with the second midfield, Stanwick contributed one goal and one assist.

Hopkins took fifth-year senior attackman Tim Desko (one goal) out of the game, mainly due to the tight coverage of junior defenseman Tucker Durkin. And on a day when both teams were riled up enough to combine for 13 penalties, including eight by Johns Hopkins, the Blue Jays never wavered. Johns Hopkins killed five of seven extra-man chances by the Orange.

"We made it competitive in the second quarter. I felt OK at halftime. But I think the third quarter really hurt us," Syracuse coach John Desko said. "I think we started to play a little more hurried and had to play a little catch-up. And [Johns Hopkins] has such a good defense and gets such good goaltending, you have to be really patient and work for good shots."

Syracuse looked like a team that lost seven starters and is trying to find its way. The Orange transition game was nowhere to be found. Lernan, who played the entire game for the first time in 2012 – he had been splitting time with sophomore Dominic Lamolinara – made just two saves in the first half before finishing with eight. And with the exception of Maltz, the Orange hardly could make a play when it counted.

Once Johns Hopkins put together a 3-0 first-quarter run on goals by Greeley, Benn and Ranagan to take a 4-1 lead into the second quarter, the Blue Jays were on their way. Three times in the second quarter, Syracuse closed to within two, twice on goals by Maltz. But the Blue Jays kept answering, and Stanwick scored from 10 yards out to give Johns Hopkins a 7-4 halftime lead.

Then came the decisive third quarter. First, after the Blue Jays wrestled away the opening faceoff initially won by Syracuse, Ranagan found Benn for an easy score nine seconds into the quarter. After Bassett stuffed Maltz on an extra-man shot in close, Benn nailed a 10-yard fadeaway to make it 9-4 with 10:52 left in the quarter. Benn completed his four-goal day with 2:30 left from seven yards out on the right wing, after a feed from Guida.

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