Hopkins lands in final 4 once more

No. 1 seed gets 15-9 win over UNC, earns 3rd trip in row

Ford has 5 goals

Ncaa Lacrosse Tournament

May 23, 2004|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - The Johns Hopkins lacrosse team knew that breaking down North Carolina's zone defense was a requirement to advance to the final four.

When you have a player on your side like senior attackman Conor Ford, one of the best finishers in the country, the task is made a lot easier.

The Blue Jays made it look rather routine yesterday, with Ford getting five goals and the midfield all the rest in a comfortable 15-9 victory over the Tar Heels at Scott Stadium to secure their third straight trip to the final four.

Ford, a converted midfielder who has 42 goals this season, scored four of his goals on laser outside shots past Tar Heels goalie Paul Spellman to help the Blue Jays turn an early 2-1 deficit into an 8-4 halftime lead.

"He's the best All-American that nobody talks about," said Johns Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala. "He's not the most stellar athlete out there, but he did what we asked him to do and he changed his game.

"He's been terrific and I'm amazed sometimes with his ability to put the ball in the goal."

Had the Blue Jays lost to eighth-seeded Carolina, they would've been just the second top-seeded team in NCAA tournament history to fall short of the final four.

"It would have been a difficult pill to swallow to be sitting in the stands in our hometown, and I'm glad we're not," Pietramala said. "I thought we played as close to 60 minutes as we have since the Syracuse game."

Hopkins (13-1) hasn't been to three straight finals fours since going every year from 1976 to '87. On Saturday at M&T Bank Stadium, the Blue Jays will play the winner of today's quarterfinal between fourth-seeded Syracuse and fifth-seeded Georgetown

Playing against a team yesterday that they needed a late rally to defeat, 10-9, earlier this year, the Blue Jays broke open the game in the second quarter by breaking down the zone defense of the Tar Heels (10-5).

"[The second quarter] was the first part of the game when I was able to get a couple of shots off," Ford said. "I felt that in the first game with them, I was wasting a lot by missing the cage. Today, I was trying to concentrate on putting every opportunity I got on goal."

Said Carolina coach John Haus: "We didn't play well defensively, but they are a very talented group. They have a bunch of guys they can bring at you, and they all shoot the ball well."

Hopkins junior Benson Erwin usually isn't considered one of those guys, but the defensive midfielder scored one of the biggest goals of the game. With Tar Heels senior Kevin Frew (17-for-28) starting to dominate at the faceoff circle and star attackman Jed Prossner (two goals on 10 shots) looking more and more dangerous, Carolina scored three straight goals to cut the Blue Jays' lead to 9-7.

But Jays junior midfielder Kyle Harrison (three goals, one assist) stopped the run on a spin move, followed by a shot, to make it 10-7 at the 7:55 mark of the third quarter. Then on a delayed penalty, Erwin, who came in with just one assist but had three points yesterday, came around the net and scored.

That was it. A quarter during which Carolina outshot the Blue Jays 15-6 ended with the Tar Heels still trailing by four goals, 11-7. Hopkins goalie Scott Smith cleaned up the rest with four of his 12 saves in the fourth quarter.

"I said to [senior] Corey Harned before the game that reflecting isn't one of my better traits, but, boy, I'd like to have another week with this group," Pietramala said. "After the game, he came up to me and said, `You got us for another week, whether you like it or not.' "

Quarterfinals

Yesterday's results

Johns Hopkins 15, North Carolina 9

Princeton 9, Maryland 8, OT

Today's games

At Ithaca, N.Y.

Navy (13-2) vs. Cornell (9-4), noon

Georgetown (11-3) vs. Syracuse (12-2), 3 p.m.

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