Johns Hopkins played its first game without Chris Boland, and the senior attackman's absence was noticeable.
The No. 2 Blue Jays went more than a quarter's length of time without scoring and needed an empty-net goal by junior midfielder John Ranagan with 31.3 seconds left in the fourth quarter to hold off No. 18 Delaware, 8-6, before 800 at Homewood Field in Baltimore Tuesday evening.
The two-goal difference was the thinnest margin of victory in the teams' series — with Johns Hopkins (2-0) winning all nine meetings.
A significant factor in the final score was the Blue Jays' inability to generate a consistent offense without Boland, last year's leading scorer who is out indefinitely with an injured shoulder. Unofficially, the unit had 31 offensive possessions resulting in eight goals, 13 turnovers and 10 shots either saved by redshirt freshman goalie Chris Herbert (game-high 12 saves) or blocked by his teammates.
"Obviously, you can tell by the score that we struggled a little bit," said Ranagan, who scored his first goal of the season and is just 1-of-14 thus far. "… It's just going to be a matter of working together every day and trying to get on the same page with each other and just gelling. We've run a four-man rotation while Chris was there. So it's not like a bunch of new faces. But the older guys like myself and [junior midfielder John] Greeley and [junior attackman] Zach [Palmer] really have to step up and start taking control of the offense."
Palmer, who led Johns Hopkins with a game-high six points on three goals and three assists in last Friday's 12-6 win against Towson, finished with just one assist, and Greeley was shut out.
The offense was carried by sophomore attackman Brandon Benn's first career hat trick and one assist and freshman attackman Wells Stanwick's one goal and two assists.
"We were definitely missing the leadership he brings to the game and our offense," Benn said of Boland. "Everybody had to step up a little bit more, and it was different, that's for sure. A couple times, we were not on the same page and jumbled up, and it cost us a few turnovers. But we started to adjust better to the game, and with him out, we just need to have more communication and make sure everyone's on the same page."
The Blue Jays appeared to have the game in hand when they reeled off five unanswered goals in the second and third quarters to take a 7-2 advantage with 3:04 remaining in the third quarter.
But the Blue Hens (2-2) went on a run of their own, scoring four times over an 11:57 span to narrow the deficit to one with 5:43 left in regulation.
Johns Hopkins was bailed out by junior goalkeeper Pierce Bassett, who made two of his six saves on back-to-back Delaware possessions. The Blue Jays were content to run out the clock with the ball in the stick of sophomore midfielder Rob Guida, but two Blue Hens players were flagged for slashing penalties, and Ranagan deposited the ball into a net vacated by Herbert to end a 17:32 drought and cement the victory.
After opening the season with back-to-back wins, Delaware has dropped two straight to No. 17 Loyola and Johns Hopkins. Senior attackman Grant Kaleikau, who led the Blue Hens with one goal and three assists, took little solace in the small goal differential.
"Any time you lose, it's not a moral victory — no matter if it's the No. 1 team in the nation or No. 32," he said. "I'm happy with the way we battled, but you always want to win."