Navy has Hopkins not where it wants

Mids favored to break 31-game losing streak

College Lacrosse


Have you heard the one about the Johns Hopkins men's lacrosse team being ripe for a beating today at the hands of Navy, which has not tasted victory over the Blue Jays since 1974?

Navy coach Richie Meade and Midshipmen senior midfielder Taylor Harris have sampled the theory, and they're not buying it.

On the surface, today should be, must be the day the Mids end this blasted drought. Navy's 31-game losing streak to Hopkins represents the longest string of futility in the sport.

No. 3 Navy, which has become a national power since 2004, has a 9-2 record, which includes a recent, 7-6 victory at Maryland, and is trying to improve its seeding position in next month's NCAA tournament.

The Mids, who also have lost to Colgate and have angered Meade with their inconsistency, have one of the nation's top defenses, led by outstanding senior goalie Matt Russell. They will play host at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, where emotions will be flowing and the NCAA single-game attendance record of 19,850 could fall. A halftime ceremony will honor several soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, and will conclude with the awarding of a Bronze Star.

No. 10 Hopkins is 5-4 for the first time under sixth-year coach Dave Pietramala, is coming off an 11-4 loss at home to Maryland, and is averaging just five goals in its four losses, all against top 10 opponents. A year after winning their first national championship since 1987, the Blue Jays, with additional games remaining against Towson and Loyola, are no lock to make their 35th straight NCAA tournament.

Sure, whatever, say Harris and Meade.

"I actually think this is one of the scariest positions we've been in. We're favored, and [the Blue Jays] are not in a good position. They're backed into a corner," Harris said. "The last thing we want the team to think is we're walking away with a win, and it's going to be an easy win.

"Emotions play a huge role in any game, but in the Hopkins games I've been in, the temptation to let your emotions flow and not use your head is strong. We can't do that. I totally expect [Hopkins] to play their best game of the season."

Added Meade: "I have unbelievable respect for Johns Hopkins. Dave has been the best coach in the country over the past few years, and Hopkins has been a benchmark for a long time. They're always ahead of the power curve."

The Blue Jays have had their problems. Turnovers and botched clears have hampered them. So have bad shots, a lack of ball movement and a lack of a consistent, outside shooting threat. Injuries to senior defensive midfielder Matt Feild and sophomore midfielder Stephen Peyser have not helped, although each is expected to play today.

Should Navy finally pull it off - and the Mids must do it without senior midfielder Steve Looney, who is out for several weeks with a broken collarbone - it would end a streak that has gotten downright painful in recent years.

The Mids have dropped the past two games to Hopkins in overtime, and have lost by one goal in the past four contests in Annapolis, and in four of their past six meetings overall.

"I thought the last two years were going to be the time [the streak ended]. I know we're going to be expecting to win," Navy junior midfielder Tommy Wallin said. "Who's going to want it more and who makes less mistakes? That will be the team that wins."

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