Soon after yesterday's 22-6 loss to No. 1 Northwestern in the inaugural American Lacrosse Conference tournament championship at Homewood Field, the Johns Hopkins women's lacrosse players began looking ahead.
Despite yesterday's outcome, the No. 11 Blue Jays are likely to be included in the field of 16 for the NCAA Division I tournament when it is announced tonight.
Last season, the Blue Jays (11-7) just missed the tournament. This time, they finished much stronger, going 5-2 down the stretch. Hopkins coach Janine Tucker said that should put them solidly into the NCAA field.
The only losses in their past seven games were to Northwestern (17-1) twice. They beat No. 2 Virginia and avenged a midseason loss to No. 10 Vanderbilt with Friday night's 12-10 victory in the ALC semifinals.
"At one point halfway through the season, we weren't sure we were going to make it," said senior Mary Key, whose Blue Jays were 6-5 on April 8.
"It would just be an amazing way to go out, to have worked as a team to get to this point where we have a chance to host the first round. ... Losing to Northwestern doesn't hurt you that much."
The Wildcats, who got four goals and four assists from tournament Most Valuable Player Hannah Nielsen and five goals each from Kristen Kjellman and Meredith Frank, clinched an automatic berth in the NCAA tournament with their third straight ALC championship.
Yesterday, the two-time defending national champions jumped out to a 10-0 lead. The Blue Jays won the first four draws but turned them all over and the Wildcats capitalized each time.
"We turned the ball over [21 times] and that was one of the main things that we couldn't do [and expect to win]," Tucker said.
"And [Northwestern] is a fabulous women's lacrosse team ... and they know how to take advantage of every mistake you make."
The Blue Jays won 18 of 30 draws, but the Wildcats forced a lot of mistakes and won the ground balls, 24-15.
"We really wanted to get the ball back and just possess and capitalize," said Northwestern's Aly Josephs, a Franklin graduate who had a goal and an assist. "I think our shooting percentage today tells it all ... 22-for-30 is really good in a big game like this."
The Blue Jays finally got on the board with 2:03 left in the first half when Lauren Schwarzmann fed Alex Nolan. After the break, the Jays scored four more, pulling within 10-5 on Sam Schrum's goal with 25:01 left in the game before the Wildcats reeled off seven straight.
Northwestern 10 12 - 22
Johns Hopkins 1 5 - 6
Goals: N-Kjellman 5, Frank 5, Nielsen 4, Bowen 4, Josephs, Dowd, Donohoe, Jacobs; JH-Nolan 2, Janice, Schrum, Key, Houck. Assists: N-Nielsen 4, Kjellman 3, Bowen 2, Frank, Josephs; JH-Schwarzmann, Walsh. Saves: N-Lathrop 9; JH-Harris 1, O'Ferrall 2.