It happened so fast that Johns Hopkins freshman midfielder Brian Christopher did not grasp the details surrounding his move, which lifted the visiting Blue Jays and crushed desperate Loyola.
Midway through overtime at Diane Geppi-Aikens Field, Christopher slid into the crease area, then watched sophomore midfielder Paul Rabil roll off a screen, cut to the goal, and prepare to shoot. Suddenly, Loyola defenseman David Moore checked Rabil's stick from behind, and the ball hung in the air.
With 2:38 left, Christopher snatched the ball at thigh level, turned, and from point-blank range, fired a high shot past Loyola senior goalie Michael Fretwell to give the No. 7 Blue Jays a 7-6 victory, before 4,812, the largest lacrosse crowd at Loyola this season.
Hopkins (8-4) finished its regular season with its first three-game winning streak. Each of the wins has been by one goal. Besides securing a home game in the NCAA tournament's first round next week - the Blue Jays could receive a No. 5 or 6 seed tonight, when the 16-team field will be announced - Hopkins probably knocked Loyola (6-6) out of contention for the tournament.
The Greyhounds, whose best win came against fifth-ranked Georgetown on April 15, likely would have clinched their first tournament berth in five years by beating Hopkins for only the fourth time in 44 tries.
And Loyola's fate may have been sealed because Christopher found himself in the right spot to score a goal in his ninth consecutive game.
"I thought [Rabil] was just going to the goal. Whatever happened, the ball bounced right to me," said Christopher, who is tied for fourth with 11 goals. "It was just reflex. ... I just picked it up and shot it."
"We've won a lot of one-goal games here. I'd like to think that's more than luck," said Blue Jays coach Dave Pietramala, who is 24-4 in one-goal decisions and 10-2 in overtime at Hopkins. "The bottom line is it bounced [Christopher's] way, but he still has to throw it in the back of the goal."
The game featured four lead changes, spurts of scoring, and fine play by both goalies. Blue Jays junior Jesse Schwartzman had 14 saves, and Fretwell had nine. Hopkins had to overcome its own problems, including 17 turnovers and four blown clears, and had to counter a slowed-down offensive tempo Loyola employed to near perfection.
The Greyhounds, who got two goals apiece from junior midfielder Andrew Spack and junior midfielder C.J. Sinisgalli, nearly won after a 3-0 third-quarter run. That turned a 4-2 deficit into a 5-4 Greyhounds lead with one second left in the quarter.
The run started after Schwartzman made a great man-down save, then promptly turned it over with a bad outlet pass that freshman defenseman P.T. Ricci picked off and delivered to Sinisgalli, who beat Schwartzman one-on-one, with 13:20 left in the period.
Hopkins, which was outshot 39-22, kept its poise and made much of its low possession time. The Blue Jays needed 50 seconds to retake a 6-5 fourth-quarter lead. A Loyola turnover resulted in a goal on the crease by junior attackman Drew Dabrowski with 7:01 left. Senior midfielder Greg Peyser, who won nine of 12 faceoffs, won the ensuing draw and passed to sophomore attackman Kevin Huntley for the lead at 6:11.
But Spack tied it for the last time with a 15-yard shot with 4:20 to go, and the Greyhounds held the ball for the rest of regulation by burning three timeouts and missing the cage four times. Then, after Loyola forced a turnover by Peyser after he won the opening faceoff in overtime, Field took the ball away from junior midfielder Cory Coffman and got it to Rabil. Rabil finished with two goals and an assist.
"This is a tough one. It's going to take a little time to get over," Loyola coach Charlie Toomey said. "But I think we're still in the tournament."
Johns Hopkins 1 2 1 2 1 - 7
Loyola 2 0 3 1 0 - 6
Goals: JH- Rabil 2, Huntley, Christopher, Drabowski, Byrne, Koesterer; L- Spack 2, Sinisgalli 2, Leonard, R. Rabidou. Assists: JH- Rabil, G. Peyser, S. Peyser; L-Bauers, Coffman, Ricci Wilcox. Saves: JH- Schwartzman 14; L- Fretwell 9. A- 4,812.