Johns Hopkins men's lacrosse coach Dave Pietramala wanted his struggling offense to loosen up by getting off to a good start, and he wanted his team to show some passion by delivering some nasty hits.
Yesterday, in a game the No. 14 Blue Jays had to have against visiting, struggling, 11th-ranked Syracuse, he got what he wished for, on both counts.
Hopkins jumped all over the Orange in the first quarter, got tremendous production from sophomores Kevin Huntley and Paul Rabil, and threw its weight around with some memorable aggression to earn a 14-9 victory before 2,836 at chilly and windy Homewood Field.
The victory was huge for Hopkins (3-2). The Blue Jays, who avoided their first 2-3 start and first two-game losing streak under Pietramala - in his sixth season at his alma mater - pounced on injury-riddled Syracuse early by scoring the game's first three goals and bolting to a 7-1, first-quarter lead.
Hopkins extended that advantage to 8-1 midway through the second quarter, before finishing with a season-best scoring output. In their first four games, the Blue Jays had scored a total of eight, first-quarter goals.
"It's easy to play when you're surrounded by players who make life easy on me," said Huntley, the attackman from Calvert Hall who matched his career high with five goals and six points and, like Rabil, had a hat trick by the end of the first quarter.
Hopkins dismantled Syracuse, which is off to its second consecutive 1-3 start, is allowing nearly 14 goals a game and is reeling. Led by senior midfielder Greg Peyser, the Blue Jays dominated possession time by winning 18 of 26 faceoffs. They only needed 34 shots to whip a soft Orange defense, which slid too late to the Hopkins shooters when it bothered to slide at all.
Eleven of the Blue Jays' 14 goals were unassisted, as Hopkins got open with moves toward the cage and took clean shots from the outside while sweeping across the middle.
Only a 4-0 third-quarter run by Syracuse, which cut the lead to 10-7 with 1:45 to go, made things interesting. But Syracuse goalie Peter Coluccini dropped the ball on a clearing attempt in front of the cage, allowing Huntley to scoop it up and score with 26 seconds left, and it was over for the Orange.
Rabil, who was off to a slow start as a scorer, nearly doubled his season's production before yesterday by matching his career-high with four goals.
"It's obvious, that getting those first couple of goals, it was like someone breathed air into our wings offensively. I thought it gave us that boost of confidence that maybe this group has been lacking," said Pietramala, who also liked the edge his squad showed by getting physical with the Orange.
"We haven't hit anybody [this season], and it's about time we hit somebody. Today, we hit three or four people, and a big hit can change a game. It showed, finally, we were playing with some emotion and some heart and some toughness."
The biggest blow came with 8:30 left in the opening quarter, with Hopkins leading, 3-1, when Syracuse blew a clearing attempt and paid for it. Orange defenseman Dustin Palmer lobbed a pass too high near midfield to midfielder JohnCarrozza, who got drilled in the chin by Hopkins senior midfielder Matt Nader.
Carrozza was knocked out cold and lay on the field for five minutes. When he walked off, Syracuse had lost its best defensive middie and one of its faceoff men. On a team that already has lost senior midfielder Greg Rommel and junior midfielder Steven Brooks to season-ending injuries, it was too much for the Orange to absorb.
"It was another injury that forced us to adjust," said Syracuse coach John Desko, who lamented the lost faceoff chances as much as anything. "When you give a team like the Blue Jays that many opportunities at the offensive end, that's putting too much pressure on your defense."
Syracuse 1 2 4 2 - 9
Johns Hopkins 7 1 3 3 - 14
Goals: Syracuse-Leveille 3, Yevoli 2, Bucktooth 2, Crockett, Hardy; Johns Hopkins-Huntley 5, Rabil 4, Byrne 2, Dabrowski, Christopher, Peyser. Assists: Syracuse-Yevoli 2, Bucktooth, Crockett, Hardy, Leveille; Johns Hopkins-Christopher, Dabrowski, Huntley. Saves: Syracuse-Coluccini 11; Johns Hopkins-Schwartzman 9.