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The 10th ranked Johns Hopkins men’s lacrosse team pulled out a thrilling 10-9 overtime victory against the undefeated and top ranked Loyola Greyhounds Saturday at Ridley Athletic Complex in Baltimore.
For those who are not aware, the campuses of Johns Hopkins and Loyola University are less than a mile apart. The schools don’t necessarily hate each other, but there are certainly bragging rights on the table. The stage was set for the Charles Street rivalry in front of a sold out crowd, where a playoff atmosphere added to the intensity of the game.
Hopkins wanted to come out and set the tone from the first whistle and they managed to do just that, taking a 2-0 lead five minutes into the first quarter.
Hopkins lost starting midfielder John Greeley for the rest of the season after he suffered an ACL tear in the Navy game last Saturday. Junior Lee Coppersmith filled in nicely on Hopkins’ first line midfield, scoring with four minutes left in the first quarter to extend the Blue Jays lead to 3-0.
Coppersmith scored again just a minute into the second quarter on a strong right hand sweep which he finished low and away on Loyola’s goalie Jack Runkel. Hopkins freshman Wells Stanwick put in another shot past Runkel a minute later to give the Jays a 5-0 lead with 12 minutes left in the half.
At this point things looked really bad for Loyola, their defense was back on its heels. The offense was struggling just to gain and keep possession and Runkel was having difficulty with Hopkins shooting at his feet. A larger than average goalkeeper at 6’3 215 lbs, Runkel has some trouble getting down to the shots around his feet and ankles. It looked as if Hopkins game planned with the intent of making him prove that he could save those shots.
Finally Loyola got themselves on the scoreboard, to no surprise it came off of a great feed from midfielder Chris Layne(UNC transfer) who dodged down the right alley, turned back and found Davis Butts wide open up top near the restraining line. Butts ripped a shot past Hopkins goalie Pierce Bassett, pinging the upper left corner. The ball hit the taught part of the net and bounced back out of the goal, a shot that brought the Loyola crowd back to life. This is when the game actually started.
As I’ve mentioned in previous articles on Loyola, I think long-stick midfielder Scott Ratliff and short-stick defensive midfielder Josh Hawkins are arguably the best defense to offense transition tandem in the country. Ratliff is a takeaway defender who can strip his man, pick up the ground ball and get it to the offense in seconds. Hawkins is his sidekick, as soon as he sees the ball hit the ground he is sprinting up the field to help facilitate the Greyhounds fast break. Loyola’s comeback would not have happened if it wasn’t for these two, which I’ll nickname: The Two Man Wrecking Crew.
Loyola’s second goal was a direct result of a typical Scott Ratliff scenario. He took the ball from the man he was guarding, retrieved the loose ball and booked it into the offensive zone, finding veteran attackman Eric Lusby who finished low on Bassett. One minute later Layne scored on a nice left hand dodge, shooting all the way across his body, beating Bassett over his left shoulder.
At halftime it’s 6-3, Loyola’s breaking a sweat and Bassett is starting to doubt himself a little in the Hopkins goal.
The third quarter was simply an exchange of two goals for each team. For Hopkins, Palmer picked another spot and buried it. Midfielder Mark Goodrich finished a nice extra man goal, again at Runkel’s feet.
For Loyola, their leading scorer on the season Mike Sawyer, got his only goal of the game dodging past a double team and bouncing it off Bassett’s right shoulder. The senior Lusby led by example, sticking a clutch time and room shot in the lower right corner with 1:30 left in the third quarter.
Heading into the fourth quarter, 8-5 Hopkins. Midfielder Rob Guida put a bullet past Runkels ear to start the fourth quarter during a man up situation, making it 9-5 Hopkins.
Butts and fellow midfielder Sean O’Sullivan each responded to the Guida goal, cutting the lead to 9-7. Suddenly Loyola was right back in the game with 10 minutes to play. During a six minute scoreless stretch the intensity became tangible. Both teams were scrapping, diving and hitting for every loose ball. In other words it was great lacrosse, precisely what you pay to see.
Sophomore defensive midfielder Pat Laconi scored his first career goal with three minutes remaining in regulation to make it 9-8. It was far from a pretty shot, hitting Bassett and trickling in the goal but the ‘Hounds saw Bassett reeling and kept testing him.
With under three minutes left to play, The Two Man Wrecking Crew had two separate opportunities to tie the game. Ratliff and the Loyola defense cleared the ball into the offensive zone, Ratliff stayed on and found himself wide open with a ten yard shot. Rather than burying it high and hard, he tried a high bouncer and was saved by Bassett. In Hawkins case, he scooped up a ground ball and sprinted into the offensive end with a 4 on 3 man advantage. None of the Hopkins defenders slid to him so he took his chance, bouncing a shot off of Bassett’s chest. Both players seemed to over think in the moment rather than just letting it fly. Nonetheless the Greyhounds were still down just one goal with a minute left to play.
Hopkins had possession with 56 seconds and counting, when Coppersmith under no physical pressure, sailed a pass over his attackman’s head. Following the turnover Loyola opted to take a timeout and set up a game tying strategy.
Loyola’s initial attempt at running a play broke down, so attackman Justin Ward found himself with the ball behind the goal glancing at the clock as it was running under 15 seconds. Ward pulled himself together realizing the game would come down to his dodge. He stutter stepped and drove to his right but couldn’t get around his man. With his back to the defender and roughly 10 seconds on the clock, Ward faked an inside roll to the crease, put the stick back in his right hand, drove hard topside and let it fly. Beating Bassett stick side high with five seconds left. The stadium exploded. No matter the outcome at this point, it was easily one of the best lacrosse games I’ve seen all year.
The game would come down to a four minute “sudden victory” overtime period. Loyola’s J.P. Dalton won the critical opening face off in overtime. After possessing the ball for a minute and a half, Loyola head Coach Charlie Toomey called a timeout with 2:29 left. Out of the timeout, Loyola’s drawn up play results in a wide open Eric Lusby shot as he cuts across the crease, only for Lusby to hit the post.
Hopkins gained possession off the rebound, settled the ball in their offensive zone and took their lone timeout with 1:38 remaining. Their devised play fell apart and similar to Loyola at the end of regulation, the Blue Jays had to improvise their own goal. The clock was at 6 seconds and running in overtime when Hopkins midfielder John Ranagan decided to have a go. His shot was knocked down by a defender, but Zach Palmer alertly grabbed the ground ball and fed the crease as time was expiring. The pass to Guida squeezed through traffic on the crease, hit Guida’s stick and trickled past Runkel. Sudden victory, no face off, game over.
The crowd at Ridley Athletic Complex was stunned, as was I. An abrupt ending to what seemed to be a fairytale season for the Greyhounds.
Loyola finishes 12-1, with a wake up call before entering the NCAA tournament. We will see how they respond to their first loss of the season. All in all, a great year for Loyola lacrosse. Coach Toomey and his staff have brought the ‘Hounds back to the national spotlight.
Hopkins improves to 10-3 and likely bumps themselves up a few notches in the NCAA tournament seedings. The Blue Jays will finish their regular season at Homewood Field this Saturday against Army.