COLLEGE PARK, MD – Someone asked Johns Hopkins men’s lacrosse coach Dave Pietramala in the post-game press conference if Saturday’s 7-4 win against rival Maryland was the turning point of the season. History, and how the 2013 season plays out will determine the exact answer of that question, but the Blue Jays certainly gave themselves new life after a hard-fought victory in the 110th renewal of lacrosse’s greatest rivalry.
In a game the Blue Jays (7-4) never trailed, they never quite put away either and it wasn’t until junior Brandon Benn buried his only goal of the game with 2:18 remaining did the win seem secure. For 58 minutes before that, the tension of a playoff game filled Byrd Stadium and it was the Blue Jay seniors and defense that provided the difference.
Senior goalie Pierce Bassett made the first of his 12 saves just over five minutes into the game and quickly sprung senior midfielder John Ranagan, who took his outlet pass 25 yards from the goal and sprinted into the attack zone, where no slide came and he buried an eight-yard shot to give the Blue Jays an early 1-0 lead. The assist was the first of Bassett’s career.
Ranagan pushed the lead to 2-0 four minutes later when he blew a left-handed laser just inside the far post on an ally dodge, only to have Maryland slice the two-goal deficit in half two minutes later when Mike Chanenchuk found Owen Blye alone on the wing and Blye beat Bassett from seven yards out to make it 2-1.
The momentum took quick turns in the final three minutes of the first quarter as Johns Hopkins senior attackman John Kaestner - filling in for an injured Zach Palmer - scored the first of his two goals just 44 seconds after Blye’s strike, but Chanenchuk scored from in tight on a nifty feed from Kevin Cooper with just 98 seconds left in the first quarter to account for a 3-2 Hopkins lead at the end of one quarter.
While the combined 20-goal pace may have been what the more than 10,000 fans in attendance wanted, Bassett and his counterpart, junior NIko Amato, had other ideas and spent the next 45 minutes going save-for-save.
Maryland (8-2) outshot Johns Hopkins 12-6 in the second quarter, but never found the back of the net in the period as Bassett made five of his 12 saves in that frame. Amato was nearly as efficient with three stops, but senior Lee Coppersmith did blow as 10-yard left-handed rocket to the top shelf early in the period to stake JHU to a 4-2 lead that the Blue Jays carried into the half.
With a history of close games in the series (eight of the last 16 have been one-goal affairs), the first goal of the second half would be crucial, and Kaestner drew first blood for the Blue Jays when he notched his second of the game just 37 seconds into the third quarter.
Twice Maryland would draw within two after that as Chanenchuk’s sneaky side-arm shot on the run found the far post five minutes after Kaestner’s goal, but Rob Guida, playing for the first time since mid-February, struck for an extra-man goal just over three minutes later to give the Blue Jays a 6-3 lead.
Amato kept the Terps in the game with five of his 12 saves on the day in the third quarter and Maryland pulled within two again just under four minutes into the fourth period when Jake Bernhardt got free 10 yards in front of the goal and scorched one inside the post to make it 6-4.
That margin held for more than nine minutes with both goalies on top of their game during that time. For his part, Bassett made a key stop on Bernhardt with the Blue Jays a man-down midway through the period and added his 12th and final save on a Chanenchuk shot with 2:36 remaining; 18 seconds later Benn polished off a slow-developing transition opportunity with his team-leading 23rd goal of the season to cap the crucial win for the Blue Jays.
Bassett’s 12-save performance led a Johns Hopkins defensive effort that held the Terps nine-goals below their season average. The Blue Jay close defense of Tucker Durkin, Chris Lightner and Jack Reilly were on point from the start and combined for eight ground balls and five caused turnovers while repeatedly keeping the Terps’ most dangerous players away from the goal.
Ranagan led the Blue Jays with two goals and one assist and Kaestner added the third two-goal performance of his career. Senior Mike Poppleton won 8-of-15 faceoffs as well for the Blue Jays, who have now won five straight games against Maryland in Byrd Stadium.
Chanenchuk matched Ranagan’s effort with a two-goal, one-assist showing of his own and the Terps held advantages in shots (36-31) and ground balls (29-26), but Maryland went more than 11 minutes without scoring three different times and never drew even after Ranagan’s two early goals gave the Blue Jays a 2-0 lead.
#15 Johns Hopkins (7-4) 3-1-2-1/7
#1 Maryland (8-2) 2-0-1-1/4
Goals: J: Ranagan-2, Kaestner-2, Guida, Coppersmith, Benn. M: Chanenchuk-2, Jake Bernhardt, Blye. Assists:J: Bassett, Greeley, Ranagan. M: Chanenchuk, Cooper. Saves: J: Bassett-12. M: Amato-12. Shots: J-31. M-36.EMO: J: 1-for-2. M: 0-for-3. Attendance: 10,233.