COLLEGE PARK -- It must have been an aberration, a blip on the NCAA Division III lacrosse screen.
When Hobart lost to Nazareth in the semifinals of last year's tournament, it ended the Statesmen's string of championships at 12. They made sure yesterday that the losing streak would stop at one.
Staking Ohio Wesleyan to a 5-0 lead, Hobart scored the last nine goals and won, 16-10, before a Byrd Stadium crowd of 9,597, a record for the Division III championship game.
"It's hard to believe we could play that poorly and that well in the same day," said Hobart coach B. J. O'Hara.
It was Hobart's 13th title in the 14-year history of the event and raised its tournament record to a stunning 40-1. The Statesmen avenged last season's loss by defeating Nazareth in last week's semifinals.
"Having lost last year makes this all the sweeter," said Cabell Maddux, named the game's MVP on the strength of a goal and four assists.
The Battling Bishops, whose only defeats in 14 games this season were to Hobart, held the Statesmen (11-3)scoreless until 4:49 into the second quarter. Hobart then rang up five straight, including a behind-the-back shot by Tony Gray. The fifth goal in the string was by Bryan Riehl, a freshman midfielder out of Loyola High.
"We came out fired up, then let up a bit," said Ohio Wesleyan coach Lelan Rogers. "We knew Hobart had the talent to come back. They proved it again."
From 5-5 late in the second quarter until Ohio Wesleyan's 10-9 lead after the third, the game was tight. Ohio Wesleyan held the biggest lead, 10-7, the same margin it led by entering the fourth quarter of their game April 3. Hobart came from 10-7 behind to win, 13-12.
"When it was 10-7, it made me think I wish we had 11," Rogers said. "If we had gotten 11, it might have been a different story, shifting the momentum."
As it was, Ohio Wesleyan failed to score over the final 19 minutes and 10 seconds as Hobart put together its string of nine goals.
Eric Curry tied it at 10-10 with a behind-the-back shot and Tom Zaccagnino put the Statesmen ahead for the first time by circling the net and stuffing the ball in from the side less than two minutes into the fourth quarter. Hobart then poured it on.
"I'm sure teams think, uh-oh, here comes Hobart," said Hobart defenseman Mike Higgins.
One of the fourth-quarter keys was that Hobart got 27 ground balls to Ohio Wesleyan's seven. Bobby Wynne scooped up seven.
"If we were in a war, I'd want Bobby in my foxhole," O'Hara said.
Wynne said, "I knew we had to do something to get an edge. But it wasn't one guy. There are 11 guys on the team."
Eleven? Did he mean 10? He did.
"Don't mind Bobby," O'Hara said, laughing. "He's a tailback on the football team."
With Hobart trailing by three goals in the third quarter, O'Harapulled goalie Bill Warder and inserted Jamie Gracey, a 5-foot-11, 240-pounder. Gracey played the rest of the way and made eight saves.
"We kept picking the ball out of the back of the net," O'Hara said in explaining why he made the change.
"We've done it all year, using two goalies. Gracey started the first three games, but was struggling in the third against Ohio Wesleyan, so Warder came off the bench and sparked us to the 13-12 win.
"Jamie had a real good warm-up. He's a remarkable young man. His grandfather suffered a heart attack yesterday, so he's dealing with a lot of stress. He was able to clear his head and help us win."