Denver moves to 1st NCAA final four with 14-9 win over Hopkins

No. 6 seed Pioneers use 5-0 run to put game out of reach in 2nd half, collect their 12th straight victory

they will face No. 7 seed UVa. in semifinal Saturday

  • Denver attackman Mark Matthews takes a shot on Johns Hopkins goalie Pierce Bassett.
Denver attackman Mark Matthews takes a shot on Johns Hopkins… (McClatchy-Tribune photo )
May 21, 2011|By Edward Lee, The Baltimore Sun

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. — — The list of NCAA tournament accomplishments for the Johns Hopkins men's lacrosse program is impressive: 40 straight tournament appearances, 18 title games and nine national championships.

That tradition was of little significance Saturday, however, as the No. 3 seed Blue Jays' postseason hopes were crushed by No. 6 seed Denver, 14-9, in an NCAA quarterfinal at Hofstra's James M. Shuart Stadium.

The Pioneers improved to 15-2, extended Division I's longest active winning streak to 12 and advanced to the final four for the first time in school history. Next Saturday at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, they will meet No. 7 seed Virginia, which upset No. 2 seed Cornell, 13-9, in the first quarterfinal here.

Johns Hopkins (13-3) has qualified for the national semifinals 28 times, but that history did not translate into goals or defensive execution.

"They played better than us," coach Dave Pietramala said, repeating a theme he would emphasize during his post-game comments on three different occasions. "You can try to find fancy words for it, and you can window-dress it up all that you want. They beat us. They came out, they looked us in the eye, they played better than we did, and the team that played better today is moving on."

Johns Hopkins got the first goal of the game when freshman midfielder Rob Guida took a pass from sophomore midfielder John Ranagan and blasted a shot past Pioneers freshman goalie Jamie Faus 2:21 into the contest.

But Denver embarked on a 6-0 run punctuated by its midfielders' abilities to use their speed to blow past the Blue Jays' short-stick defensive midfielders.

"We're a lot quicker than we look," Pioneers coach Bill Tierney said. "We've got a bunch of young men that are unselfish. Everybody stuck to the game plan."

Johns Hopkins did get goals from Ranagan and senior attackman Kyle Wharton in a 43-second span midway through the second quarter, but sophomore midfielder Cameron Flint followed with his third goal of the game to give the Pioneers a 7-3 advantage at halftime.

A factor in Denver's first-half success was sophomore Chase Carraro's outdueling senior Matt Dolente on faceoffs.

Dolente, who entered the contest ranked first in Division I in faceoff percentage (178-for-265, .672), won 16 of 26 draws but was just 4-for-12 in the first half against Carraro, who had a .603 success rate (213-of-353).

"We didn't have the ball too much," said senior attackman Kyle Wharton, who scored three goals. "It's hard to get into a flow and it's hard to score goals without the ball. That was a factor in the first half as to why we weren't scoring goals. We weren't getting too many possessions."

The Blue Jays scored four of the first five goals of the third quarter to trim the deficit to one with 7:16 left in the period, but Denver scored the next five goals — including three in a 3:50 span near the end of the quarter, to put the contest out of reach.

Notes: An announced 13,447 watched the quarterfinals. That's the largest crowd to watch a lacrosse game at Shuart Stadium, surpassing the previous high of 12,292, set when the quarterfinals were held there in 1999. … After scoring his third goal of the game with 4:47 left in the third quarter, Denver senior attackman Todd Baxter appeared to aggravate the high right ankle sprain and partially torn medial collateral ligament in his right knee that sidelined him for the team's 13-10 victory over Villanova in the first round Sunday. Although he did not return, Tierney said he doesn't think Baxter will miss the final four. "If he got back for today, he'll be back for Saturday," Tierney said. "There was a time this week when I tried to put my arm around him and say: 'Todd, you've had a hell of a year. You, Mark and Mops [junior attackman Alex Demopoulos], we [can't] tell you how much you've meant to us.' And he said, 'Don't even think about it. I'm playing on Saturday.' So he did."

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