Johns Hopkins senior midfielder Kyle Harrison has heard so much about the streak. But when No. 2 Duke, sporting possibly the most potent offense in the nation, invades Homewood Field tonight to face the top-ranked Blue Jays, Harrison said school records hardly will be on his mind.
If Hopkins beats the Blue Devils in a battle between the last two unbeaten college teams in Division I men's lacrosse, the Blue Jays will set a school record with their 32nd straight victory at home.
The senior class has yet to lose on its own turf. The Blue Jays have not dropped a game at Homewood since March 26, 2001. And those numbers just don't weigh much on Harrison. More often, he finds himself dwelling on another, less pleasant pattern - Hopkins' failure to win an NCAA title for 17 consecutive seasons.
"[The home winning streak] is in the back of our head, but it's not in the big picture," said Harrison, who was recognized as the game's top midfielder a year ago and leads Hopkins with 13 assists. "If we happen to lose a home game and we go on to win the national championship, I'm not even going to remember losing that home game."
Still, tonight could be memorable, even though it's only midseason. While Hopkins and Duke form the marquee event and are playing for only the third time since 1951, No. 7 Maryland and host, No. 8 Navy will meet for the 80th time in a contest that could prove more pivotal, in terms of seeding positioning for next month's NCAA tournament.
Each team is coming off a stinging loss and is struggling on offense. Navy (7-2), which took an 11-6 whipping at the hands of No. 4 Georgetown, has lost to then-unranked Bucknell and has yet to beat a team currently ranked in the top 20. Maryland (5-3) just absorbed a 10-2 rout at third-ranked Virginia, has lost to then-unranked Dartmouth, has dropped two of its past three games and has managed just 17 goals over that stretch.
A year ago, Navy beat Maryland for the first time in 12 attempts, and that 9-6 win sparked a stretch drive that ended with the Mids losing in their first appearance in the NCAA title game. A year ago, the Terrapins barely missed the final four.
"Bucknell played real hard and real tough. Georgetown played tougher than us. That bothers me," said Navy coach Richie Meade. "You've got to question us."
Maryland coach Dave Cottle pointed to the Terps' dismal shooting. In its past three games, Maryland has made 17 of 123 attempted shots (13.8 percent).
"Good teams find a way to win when they're shooting poorly," Cottle said. "In basketball, you rebound better. In lacrosse, you get more ground balls on offense. Shooting is an important part of the game, but it can't be the only reason why you lose."
Shooting has not been a problem in 2005 for Duke (11-0), which is off to the best start ever and has achieved its highest ranking ever. The Blue Devils average 13 goals a game. Their high-powered attack is led by freshman Zack Greer (NCAA-high 36 goals, 52.2 percent shooting) and sophomore Matt Danowski (second with 23 assists).
The Blue Devils have obliterated lesser opponents, such as Mount St. Mary's, VMI and Ohio State. They also have swept Maryland, North Carolina and Georgetown on the road, including a 12-3 rout of the Hoyas. Now, they will try to conquer Hopkins and its streak.
"I think a lot of it has to do with the Baltimore players who've grown up there and watched a lot of games at Homewood before they played there," Duke coach Mike Pressler said. "They've observed the tradition. There's a mystique.
"We're going to just play smart and play confident. This is not a win-all, end-all for either team. It's just a huge regular-season game on a turf field at Johns Hopkins. The key here is regular season."
Said Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala: "Duke might be the best offensive team in the country right now. The Greer kid gives them savvy you just can't teach."
Hopkins (7-0), which turned back then-No. 2 Virginia two weeks ago and has beaten eight top five teams during the streak, has ridden a steady defense and a timely offense to its perfect start. Until Tuesday's 19-6 rout of 18th-ranked Albany, Hopkins had not scored more than 12 goals. The Blue Jays are averaging a modest 10.8 a game.
"We're not here to show people how great our offense is," Pietramala said. "We win games. The important thing isn't scoring tons of goals. It's getting better."
No place like home
The Johns Hopkins men's lacrosse team has three of the four all-time home winning streaks of 30 or more games. The five longest home winning streaks in Division I since 1971, when the NCAA began tracking such records:
Team Dates Wins
Syracuse April 24, 1982-March 18, 1987 37
Johns Hopkins April 3, 2001-current 31
Johns Hopkins April 24, 1982-May 19, 1985 31
Johns Hopkins April 29, 1978-March 20, 1982 30
Syracuse April 18, 1987-May 20, 1990 26
No. 2 Duke at No. 1 Johns Hopkins
Homewood Field, 8
No. 7 Maryland at No. 8 Navy
Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, 7