The No. 13 Loyola men's lacrosse team played No. 5 Johns Hopkins close for three quarters yesterday, but then the Blue Jays turned some of their individual stars loose, and they were too much for the Greyhounds.
Hopkins scored the first four goals of the fourth quarter to open up a tight game and defeat host and rival Loyola, 9-6, yesterday before an announced 3,410 at Diane Geppi-Aikens Field.
The outcome in the regular-season finale for both teams proved what many in lacrosse had already suspected. Loyola (7-6) is an up-and-coming team that, at least for now, lacks the depth and star power of a Hopkins (8-5).
"All week long Coach [Dave Pietramala] kept telling us it was going to be a low-scoring game, like 6-5," said Hopkins midfielder Michael Kimmel, who finished with three goals. "We figured we would have to make some plays at the end, and fortunately we got the mismatches we wanted."
With its fifth straight victory - three coming over ranked foes - Hopkins appears in good shape to earn an at-large bid in the NCAA tournament. Loyola, meanwhile, has an automatic bid by virtue of winning the Eastern College Athletic Conference. The tournament field will be announced today.
The Greyhounds held Hopkins standout midfielder Paul Rabil to a goal, but that lone score was a beauty and put the Blue Jays ahead 6-5 with 13:49 left.
But Kimmel did most of the damage in the fourth quarter. On the second team, he scored back-to-back goals about a minute and a half apart. Both goals came off isolation plays from behind and to the right of the goal. The latter, with 4:20 remaining, put Hopkins ahead 8-5.
Kimmel's goals frustrated the Greyhounds because they had forced him to use his weak hand (right), and he still scored with Paul Richards draped all over him. Junior midfielder Brian Christopher finished the scoring for Hopkins with a goal with 2:23 left.
Loyola coach Charley Toomey didn't say much, but he didn't have to. He had to wonder about where Hopkins gets all those midfielders.
"We forced their guys to their weak sides, and we were slow in sliding because we got them where we wanted them," Toomey said. "I guess we found out today that they are pretty good with their weak hands."
It wasn't a well-played game by Hopkins. Loyola outplayed the Blue Jays for the most part but couldn't convert on numerous opportunities in the first half when the Greyhounds held a 20-14 shooting advantage.
But during a five-game losing streak earlier this season, the Blue Jays lost three overtime games, and this one seemed as if it was going to be another tight one.
"We showed a lot of character today just like we have all season when we lost five in a row, and everybody and their mother thought we were done," Pietramala said. "We didn't play great, but we came together. Maybe this will wake us up heading into the playoffs, because it's the real season now."
Maybe this was a wake-up call for Loyola as well. It executed its game plan to near perfection for three quarters.
On defense, the Greyhounds slid well during that time to cut off any penetration. On offense, they had some excellent looks on shots at the goal. If Loyola had shot reasonably well, it would have been ahead by three or four goals at the half. Instead, the score was tied at 2.
Then when the Blue Jays made their fourth-quarter run, the Greyhounds faded by committing turnovers.
"We got some great looks, got our hands free," Toomey said. "I think when we look at the film, we're going to be sick to our stomachs. We didn't can our opportunities.
"We allowed them to run from the defensive end to the offensive end, and they can score in bunches. We lost our composure in the fourth quarter. We didn't match their run. When we got up 5-3, there was a little bit of a celebration on our sideline."
Hopkins 1 1 3 4 - 9
Loyola 2 0 3 1 - 6
Goals: H-Kimmel 3, Christopher 2, Peyser 2, Rabil, Duerr; L-Koppens 2, MacDonnell, Finnerty, Basler, Ebsary. Assists: L-Koppens, Landry, Ricci, Richards. Saves: H-Gvozden 14; L Hagelin 10.