Hopkins pulls rank on Loyola

No. 1 Jays earn 8-4 victory, eye top seed in tournament

May 05, 2002|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

Dave Pietramala insists there's an inconsistent nature to his Johns Hopkins lacrosse team. Ace attackman Bobby Benson was slow getting out of the blocks and the defensemen have performed like lone rangers too many times, but the Blue Jays have been steady where it counts: on the scoreboard.

Hopkins concluded a superb regular season with an 8-4 victory over Charles Street rival Loyola in front of 4,116 at the latter's Curley Field yesterday. The Blue Jays upheld their No. 1 ranking and deserve the top seed when the NCAA tournament field is announced this evening.

Against the nation's toughest schedule, the only blemish on the Blue Jays' 11-1 record was a loss at Virginia on March 23, and now Pietramala has his alma mater poised to win its first national championship since 1987.

"We're a work in progress, and a very resilient group," Pietramala said. "I'm very proud of what they've done, but no one wants to know what we did in the regular season now, everybody wants to know what we're going to do next. It's on to the second season. We need to focus, recuperate, re-energize and get back to basics."

Projected among the top four seeds, Hopkins expects to open the tournament at home May 19, as the designated south site for the quarterfinals is Homewood Field, where the Blue Jays are 11-1 in Pietramala's two seasons. Selection Sunday will be uneasy for No. 8 Loyola (9-4), meanwhile, as the Greyhounds lost for the fourth time in their past six games and will sweat out the final at-large selection.

Pietramala and Loyola coach Bill Dirrigl, who worked together as Greyhounds assistants in 1994, are the best of friends. The former experienced pleasure over his troops and pain for his buddy after Hopkins continued to prosper with first-year starters just about everywhere.

Hopkins led from the fourth minute on, when Conor Ford (St. Paul's) got the first of his game-high three goals. With Kyle Harrison (Friends) winning 13 of the 16 faceoffs, it's amazing that Loyola stayed in it as long as it did. The Greyhounds drew within 4-3 on a goal by Ryan Fisher (Westminster) with 9:05 left in the third quarter, but Kyle Barrie triggered a decisive 3-0 run with a power move past John Brasko.

Seventeen Blue Jays have appeared in all 12 games. Eight are freshmen, like Harrison and Barrie.

"This is one of the greatest feelings in the world, it's like living a dream," said Barrie, who left in the third quarter with a hip pointer. "I never thought I'd be in this position a year ago."

Senior goalie Nick Murtha notched 15 saves. He limited Loyola to one goal over the final 24 minutes, and over an earlier 19-minute span, was beaten only when Stephen Brundage cleaned up a deflection.

Murtha is a first-year starter, and his close defense was nearly as green at the start of the season. Their aversion to sliding and helping in the previous week's 14-11 win over Towson peeved Pietramala, but they had him beaming yesterday.

"The last few games we stopped communicating between ourselves," said P.J. DiConza, who moved from long-stick to close defense this season. "Today, we told ourselves we were going to slide."

Loyola did not commit a penalty in the first 54 minutes, but the Greyhounds didn't take many chances at the offensive end either, where senior Mike Sullivan lamented hitting Murtha "six or seven times." Dirrigl's team averaged just six goals in its losses, and that figure dropped as Loyola was held to its lowest total since 1987.

"The defense cared, that's for sure," said Dirrigl, whose preparation for his first season as the Greyhounds' coach was slow starting over a contract dispute with Rutgers, his previous employer. "We made some mistakes in the clearing game, and when you're struggling to score like we are, you have to play great defense for 60 minutes."

Johns Hopkins 2 1 2 3 - 8

Loyola 0 2 1 1 - 4

Goals: JH-Ford 3, Barrie 2, Harrison, Hanna, Benson; LC-Fink, Brundage, Roy, Fisher. Assists: JH-Boland, Erwin; LC-Fink. Saves: JH-Murtha 15; LC-Bloomquist 12.

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