CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA – Few games that receive as much hype as Saturday’s men’s lacrosse matchup between top-ranked Virginia and second-ranked Johns Hopkins actually live up to the advance billing. After regulation and all but five seconds of a full overtime, it’s safe to say that the Blue Jays’ 11-10 win over the Cavaliers did – and then some.
Johns Hopkins trailed by as many as three in the first half, led by two early in the fourth quarter and trailed by a goal with just over a minute to play in regulation – while playing a man down.
That’s when things really got crazy.
Virginia turned the ball over with 11 seconds remaining on its extra-man chance and the Blue Jays needed one timeout and 27 seconds before junior Lee Coppersmith slipped inside a pair of defenders and scored from the high slot with 44 seconds left in regulation.
Failed extra-man chances and turnovers by both teams over the remainder of regulation and the first three plus minutes overtime eventually led to Hopkins isolating junior John Ranagan at the top of the box as the first overtime ticket away. After getting a quick step on his defender, he beat Virginia goalie Rob Fortunato low for his eighth goal of the season and the Blue Jays had exorcised yet another demon they had carried – and heard about – for far too long.
Ranagan’s goal lifted the Blue Jays to their first win in Charlottesville against the Cavaliers since 1998. Earlier wins at Princeton and last week against Syracuse had stopped losing streaks against the Tigers and Orange that had stretched to three and five games, respectively.
Winning at Virginia – that was an entirely different monkey on the back; or gorilla as JHU head coach Dave Pietramala has referred to it a week earlier.
That the game went to overtime should surprise few. During the losing streak in Charlottesville the Blue Jays had alternated blowout losses in 2002, 2006 and 2010 with overtime defeats in 2004 and 2008. Eventually one of these had to break Hopkins’ way.
After Virginia built an early 4-1 lead on lengthy possessions and back-to-back goals by Chris Bocklet that bridged the first and second quarters, the Blue Jays slowly began to work their way back into the game.
The Blue Jays grabbed the momentum midway through the second quarter as they scored consecutive goals in a three-minute span midway through the period. Sophomore Brandon Benn one-timed home a pass to the crease from junior Zach Palmer to make it 4-2 and freshman Wells Stanwick made it a one-goal game with 4:34 remaining in the first half as he dodged hard to the crease from behind the goal and beat Fortunato from in tight.
A Steele Stanwick goal into an empty net gave the Cavs a 5-3 lead at halftime and the teams traded goals in a 35-second span early in the period to make it 6-4. Nearly 15 minutes would pass before Virginia would score again. During that time the Blue Jays scored four times to build their two-goal lead.
Benn completed his third consecutive hat trick 29 seconds after a Ryan Tucker goal to ignite the four-goal run, which included the first career goal by sophomore Jack Reilly and back-to-back extra-man goals by Rob Guida in a span of just over five minutes bridging the third and fourth quarters.
Virginia, as it does so often, struck back quickly with two goals in a 50-second span shortly after Guida’s strike made it 8-6. A Rob Emery extra-man goal drew the Cavs within one at 8-7 and Matt White’s highlight-reel behind the back shot from the crease tied it less than a minute later.
If White’s shot was destined for play of the game, it was quickly bumped by Zach Palmer’s goal 52 seconds later. Working from behind the goal, Palmer drove up the side and scored on a one-handed wrap-around shot from goal line extended that gave the Blue Jays a 9-8 lead with more than 10 minutes remaining.
The one-goal lead didn’t figure to hold – and it didn’t. Steele Stanwick scored from in tight after defenseman Tucker Durkin lost his footing to knot the game with just over four minutes remaining and Tucker fired home his second of the game with 2:44 on the clock to give Virginia a 10-9 lead.
The one-goal lead held for exactly two minutes, when Coppersmith fired home the game-tying goal that forced overtime and led to Ranagan’s game-winner that lifted the final proverbial monkey off the Blue Jays’ back.
Benn led the Blue Jays with his three goals, while Guida notched a career-high four points on two goals and two assists. Wells Stanwick (1g, 2a) and Palmer (1g, 1a) were JHU’s other multi-point scorers, while freshman Drew Kennedy won 8-of-14 faceoffs and junior goalie Pierce Bassett posted nine saves.
Virginia, which had its 14-game home winning streak snapped, was led by Steele Stanwick’s two goals and three assists, while Emery, Bocklet and Tucker added two goals apiece for the Cavaliers, who also got 11 saves from Fortunato.
Johns Hopkins, which figures to take over the top spot in the national rankings when the new polls are released on Monday, will play North Carolina in the Konica Minolta Big City Classic next Sunday night (6:30 pm) at Met Life Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.