One week after changing its men's lacrosse season with a come-from-behind victory at Navy, Johns Hopkins solidified another playoff trip by hanging on for a one-goal win against a Towson squad that could have faded away but would not leave Homewood Field quietly.
When yesterday's entertaining 11-10 Hopkins victory became official after Towson junior midfielder Nick Williams (Calvert Hall) fell while trying to send the game into overtime with a shot from about 14 yards out as time expired, the No. 6 Blue Jays sighed with relief.
That left the 12th-ranked Tigers seething with frustration, starting with Towson coach Tony Seaman, who came so close but had to swallow a ninth straight loss to the school that fired him eight years ago.
"I want to win. I don't want to make it close. My daughter will tell you I'm the worst loser in the world, [whether at] Mono- poly or anything," Seaman said. "But the kids battled back, man. They played tough and they played hard."
The 4,826 spectators who bathed in the sun witnessed tense, physical lacrosse that was far from artistic - a combined 31 turnovers, 15 blown clears and 12 penalties - but pleasing nevertheless.
Both teams struggled to control the game's tempo. Hopkins (7-4) shot the ball well, rode a 13-for-16 faceoff performance by Stephen Peyser, milked the clock for long stretches and played a strong six-on-six game at both ends of the field. Towson (8-5) pounced on the Blue Jays' clearing and turnover problems by getting out in transition, and fed off its ability to take over in one-on-one situations, while scoring in bunches.
Hopkins nearly let an 11-7 lead slip away in the final six minutes, but did enough to win for the 11th straight time over Towson, which is now 3-31 against the Blue Jays.
"We never lost our poise," said Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala, whose defending national champions won their fourth game in five tries and sealed their 35th straight NCAA tournament bid. "Today was a good, solid win against a good, solid team. We've won two really tough games [in a row]."
"[Towson] definitely took advantage of what we gave them. They ran transition well," said Hopkins sophomore attackman Kevin Huntley (Calvert Hall), who led the Blue Jays with three goals and took a lot of physical abuse to get them.
Junior attackman Bobby Griebe (Boys' Latin) led Towson with three goals, all in the first half, when the Tigers used their extra-man unit and fast breaks to stay within 6-5 at halftime. Then, after the Blue Jays held the ball for huge chunks of the third quarter and took a 9-5 lead on goals by Huntley, and attackmen Jake Byrne and Drew Dabrowski, Towson cut it to 9-7 in 52 seconds at the end of the third quarter.
Sophomore midfielder Paul Rabil came up big for Hopkins with two goals and two assists, and his final score - the Blue Jays' third extra-man goal - put Hopkins on top 11-7 with 6:34 left.
Towson then made its final charge. Goals from junior faceoff specialist Matt Eckerl (Calvert Hall) and sophomore midfielder Brian Vetter (Annapolis) made it 11-9 with 5:45 left. The Tigers then forced a turnover in the final minute while playing two men down, and cut it to 11-10 on a goal by senior attackman Steve Mull (Fallston) with 42 seconds left.
The Tigers then lost the ensuing faceoff on a delay of game call, quickly forced a turnover, and came up short twice.
Towson 1 4 2 3 - 10
Johns Hopkins 3 3 3 2 - 11
Goals: T- Griebe 3, Vetter 2, Eckerl 2, Grillo, Bacon, Mull; JH- Huntley 3, Rabil 2, Peyser 2, Byrne, Christopher, Dabrowski, Doneger. Assists: T- Williams 2, Bacon, Cittadino, Grillo, Preuss; JH- Rabil 2, Byrne, Christopher, Duerr, Peyser. Saves: T- DeGroat 8; JH- Schwartzman 9. A- 4,826.