Jays upset champs to open

New starters Murtha, Harrison lift Hopkins over Princeton, 8-5

Tigers were in line for No. 1

Senior, freshman step up

`no names' unite, defuse loaded attack

March 03, 2002|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

The Johns Hopkins lineup listed both as rookie starters, but Kyle Harrison and Nick Murtha relied on radically different perspectives as they led the Blue Jays to a surprisingly easy 8-5 victory over Princeton at Homewood Field yesterday.

Hopkins led the defending NCAA lacrosse champions by five goals heading into the final seven minutes of the season opener for both, as Tigers coach Bill Tierney lamented the continuation of a lackluster preseason and finally met some of the new faces that made him wary of the young team that Dave Pietramala has put together.

Coming off its sixth NCAA title in the past decade and loaded with offensive talent, Princeton would have assumed the No. 1 position in the season's inaugural Top 20 with a win, but Hopkins never trailed and led over the last 39 minutes, as Murtha made 11 saves and Harrison controlled 12 of the 17 faceoffs and the tempo.

"I'm still kind of in shock," Harrison said.

Harrison is an 18-year-old freshman midfielder; Murtha, a 21-year-old senior goalie. He mopped up in three games over the past two seasons, but won the position last fall, when 2001 starter Rob Scherr was out with a thumb injury. With freshman Chris Watson and junior Mike Peyser also making their first starts on close defense, Murtha shut down one of the game's most seasoned offenses, as Prince- ton had its lowest goal total since a 16-4 loss to Syracuse two years ago.

"The job Nick did was amazing," defenseman P.J. DiConza said. "A couple of scrimmages didn't go as well as we would have liked, and going up against Princeton, we wondered, can we really do it? The national champions are supposed to light up the scoreboard. ... They had the big names, guys on the World team. We felt like we were the no-names, the underdogs."

Playing with a wrap around his right knee to stabilize the injury that cut short his 2001 season, DiConza did stellar work on Ryan Boyle, the attackman out of Gilman School who last season became the first freshman to lead Princeton in scoring since 1991. Boyle was held without a point until the final minute yesterday, when his goal caused concern on the Hopkins sideline.

Not to worry. Harrison had good fortune against Drew Casino and great hustle from his wings all day. Hopkins controlled the big faceoff and took a timeout. Harrison was supposed to run out the clock, but got a step on a defender and rolled around the cage. When Princeton was slow to slide, he clinched the matter with 34 seconds left. Pietramala wagged a finger at Harrison's inexperience, but plans to ride his athleticism through 2005.

Harrison turned down Division I basketball offers to come to Hopkins. His father, Miles, played for Morgan State when the Bears' excellence extended to lacrosse. He went to Friends School, traditionally a stranger to The Sun's Top 10, but talents like Harrison and fellow freshman midfielder Benson Erwin led the Quakers to move up to the MIAA A Conference, where both were tested.

Hopkins didn't score until the 35th minute at Princeton last season, when it lost in the NCAA quarterfinals. Harrison needed just 92 seconds to get the Blue Jays on the board yesterday. Owen Daly's extra-man goal cut the Hopkins lead to 3-2 with 10:15 left in the third quarter, but that was the Tigers' offense in a stretch that lasted more than 39 minutes.

Princeton hit three pipes and Bobby Benson turned a wayward Murtha clear into a 6-2 lead, but Hopkins made its own luck. With the Tigers favored to repeat in the Ivy League and the Blue Jays fighting for one of only six at-large berths to the NCAAs, Hopkins clearly wanted the game more and dominated the ground balls, 43-24.

"They took it to us," Tierney said. "Hopefully, we'll use this as a lesson. You worry when you score only one goal in a half. We've been trying to tell ourselves that we were practicing hard, with true intensity, but that hasn't been the case."

Princeton 1 0 1 3 -- 5

Johns Hopkins 1 1 3 3 -- 8

Goals: P--Pelligrino, Daly, Tierney, Dumont, Boyle; JH--Harrison 2, Borland, Benson, Barrie, Ford, Doneger, Hanna. Assists: P--Daly, Tierney; JH--Borland 2, LeSuer 2, Ford. Saves: P--Gould 14; JH--Murtha 11.

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