It was a statement game, one that spoke volumes abou Johns Hopkins' re-entry into the lacrosse national championship picture.
No. 6 Johns Hopkins erased an early three-goal deficit with five second-quarter goals, as the Blue Jays turned in their best effort of the season in defeating No. 1 and previously unbeaten Virginia, 16-6, yesterday before 9,657 at Homewood Field.
It was a game the Blue Jays (4-1) dominated, except for the first six minutes when Virginia took a 3-0 lead. But Johns Hopkins' defense was relentless in the remaining time -- at one point holding the Cavaliers without a goal for 27 minutes, 26 seconds.
And when the close defense wasn't smothering Virginia's highly regarded transition game, Johns Hopkins scored at will on the Cavaliers defense, which came into the game allowing only seven goals per game.
Attackman Jeff Wills led the Blue Jays with three goals. Fellow attackman Mike Morrissey had two goals and three assists, and four other Blue Jays scored two goals.
"In the last two weeks we have been trying to make a statement that we're back," said Blue Jays goalie Scott Giardina, who finished with 17 saves after the shaky start. Johns Hopkins was 6-5 a year ago, and eliminated in the first round of the 12-team National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I tournament.
After beating three-time defending national champion Syracuse a week ago and Virginia (6-1) yesterday, the Blue Jays got Cavaliers coach Jim "Ace" Adams' attention.
"After they beat Syracuse, I expected a tough match, but I didn't expect it to be this lopsided. Geez," said Adams. "They outplayed us, and their defense took us out of our game. Kudos to this Hopkins team. It was their day."
Some of the Johns Hopkins players are starting to believe it is their year. The Blue Jays are just starting to become comfortable with first-year coach Tony Seaman's motion offense, and when the transition is complete, they say a national championship could be within their reach.
"The offense is built around a team concept, not like a year ago where we had one or two people trying to dodge and make something happen," said Blue Jays attackman Matt Panetta. "We're always looking for each other, trying to find the open man and become more fluid at it. If we keep getting better each week at the same rate, then I think we got a shot at the playoffs and the national championship."
What makes the Johns Hopkins offense unusual is that it involves a lot of midfield play. Midfielders Adam Wright, Brian Lukacz and Brendan Cody each scored two goals, from long distance as well as from just outside the crease.
"I thought we passed and moved the ball around well," said Seaman. "We're also doing a super job with our shot selection. We're making it difficult to be a great goalie against us."
Meanwhile, Giardina was nearly perfect. He had four saves on one-on-one opportunities in the second quarter as Johns Hopkins outscored Virginia (5-1) for a 9-5 halftime lead. Twice during the game he stopped seemingly goal-bound underhand scoop shots from Virginia's talented attackman Kevin Pehlke (Calvert Hall).
Giardina's only bad moments came in the first quarter, but he got a wake-up call after Virginia's third goal with 8:34 left in the period.
"After that goal, one of their players came over and said, I ------," said Giardina. "That's exactly what happened and that ticked me off."
The rest of the Blue Jays got a wake-up call from Seaman.
"He just didn't want guys overreacting," said Panetta. "It was still a long game and we were only down 4-1. Now if it was 6-1 or 7-1, then it would have been time to start worrying."
No need to sweat.
The Blue Jays' close defense led by Bill Dwan, Brian Voelker and Nick Shevillo started shutting down Pehlke and Cavaliers midfielder Andy Kraus. Voelker did an outstanding job of keeping Pehlke from going to his right, from where he shoots 80 percent of the time.
Pehlke came into yesterday's game having scored 26 goals and recorded 13 assists. He had one goal and one assist yesterday. Kraus had two goals, but was not a factor.
"Those three guys make it easy on you," said Giardina. "They just wear you down."