BALTIMORE | The gloaming hadn’t entirely settled in Saturday evening. It was coming, though, just as surely as the loss Maryland was undeniably flirting with while down three goals in the second half’s initial stages.
That’s what happens to visitors at Homewood Field. They fall behind, and then they stay behind. Much has changed in college lacrosse in the last decade. Johns Hopkins’ ability to suffocate foes after building a lead has not.
A funny thing though: It didn’t happen Saturday.
Instead, it was the Terrapins who departed with a 9-6 victory, the byproduct of an efficient offense and a precocious defense perhaps announcing it would not be a hindrance – not now and not ever.
“I can always remember coach saying it’s never as good as it seems and it’s never as bad as it seems,” attackman Owen Blye said. “That’s always in the back of our heads.”
Ignoring that balance for a moment, things seemed very, very good for the No. 10 Terps (7-3) after shutting out the No. 3 Blue Jays (9-2) for the final 29:17.
Even the remotest concerns about NCAA tournament inclusions? Gone.
The possibility of last month’s two-game skid lingering deep into the second half of the season? Kaput.
Instead, Maryland came out of Homewood with a victory over its greatest rival and the knowledge it could more than hold up against one of the nation’s more talented teams. For nearly 30 minutes, it deconstructed a bunch with a substantial edge in experience.
“I don’t think we got tired; I thought we got tight,” Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala said. “A valuable lesson for us is you play to win, not to hang on or not lose. I thought we didn’t play when things got tight to win.”
It was a decidedly un-Hopkins moment. Only twice had the Blue Jays lost at home after building a three-goal lead in Pietramala’s 12 seasons. In 2001, they ran into a young Tillman Johnson in a four-overtime loss to Virginia. In 2008, eventual national champ Syracuse surged from behind.
And yet the Blue Jays squandered away. Blessed with a significant possession edge in the second quarter, Hopkins could manage only a 5-3 lead at the break. And after a quick goal, the flustered Blue Jays attack went silent in the second half.
“We got away from what we’ve been doing all year,” Hopkins attackman Chris Boland said. “Some of that had to do with being tight, but from an offensive standpoint, we just weren’t making the simple plans. We weren’t being fundamental and disciplined.”
Quite unlike the Terps, who waited out Hopkins’ extended possessions and shot 6-for-11 during their comeback. Blye scored four goals in the second half, picking on freshman defenseman Robert Enright and later a matchup on a short stick.
Hopkins nearly always has a reply, so when it was tied at 6-6 at the end of the third quarter it still seemed headed for the usual result. Then Blye stuck two more goals, Kevin Cooper scored at the end of a transition break and the Terps were headed for a head-turning victory.
“I don’t think we changed a ton,” coach John Tillman said. “I just think we did what we did better.”
They certainly did better than Hopkins, losers of two of its last three. There is no cause for anxiety at Homewood, but the Blue Jays won’t enter the postseason with a gleam of invulnerability.
Not that Maryland thought it existed anyway, not even when it trailed by three in a place where visitors so rarely rally.
“A 6-3 deficit doesn’t cause us to panic,” Blye said. “In reality, I think we would pride ourselves on saying we would never panic.”
The Terps didn’t Saturday. And when the sun finally set, Maryland had a victory neither it nor Hopkins would soon forget.