CHARLOTTESVILLE | Johns Hopkins continued its year of firsts-in-a-long-while Saturday. It will find itself as the nation’s new No. 1 team as a result.
John Ranagan scored with 5.6 seconds left in overtime as the second-ranked Blue Jays defeated the top-ranked Cavaliers 11-10, their first win at Klockner Stadium since 1998.
Hopkins (8-0) swept through Princeton, Syracuse and Virginia this month without a blemish, something it hadn’t accomplished since 2005.
“This is one place we had a really hard time winning,” Ranagan said. “We beat Princeton. We hadn’t beat them in a while. We beat Syracuse. We hadn’t beat them in a while. This was our other game we hadn’t won in a really long time and we’re happy we got the win.”
It was, for the most part, an exceptionally tight and well-played affair. The faceoffs were nearly even, both goalies made solid saves when needed and there was nary a botched clear the entire afternoon.
Much of that was obscured with a helter-skelter final minute of regulation as well as overtime, a stretch during which both teams were called for having too many men on the field. Yet it looked very much like a 1-vs.-2 showdown before the late breakdowns.
“It felt like a playoff game,” Virginia coach Dom Starsia said.
And it might just be a preview of one, too.
Saturday was tinged with some May overtones, from the suddenly sweltering conditions that emerged out of some early afternoon rain to the reality the winner would earn the early inside track to the No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
The largest lead was three, and the teams were tied at three junctures in the fourth quarter. Virginia had a chance to finish things off in regulation up 10-9, but Mark Cockerton’s pass on an extra-man opportunity forced Steele Stanwick out of the box with 1:11 to go.
Lee Coppersmith scored the equalizer moments later, but he came offsides to nullify Hopkins’ last possession of regulation.
Virginia milked the rest of the clock, opting for a brief extra-man and possession to open overtime. But midfielder Rob Emery began his shot before taking Stanwick’s pass and Hopkins got the ball back only to commence another exchange of turnovers that included a too-many-men penalty on Virginia.
“You have Rob Emery stepping down into his wheelhouse,” Starsia said. “He hasn’t whiffed on that ball all year. We go offsides on the extra man. They kind of returned the favor in every instance.”
Perhaps the most impressive part of the day was Hopkins’ willingness – as well as its obvious ability – to push the tempo every bit as much as Virginia. Such an approach is to be expected of the Cavaliers, who remain just as athletic as ever.
To see it from Hopkins was significant. It was also important, right down to the last play when the Blue Jays inverted midfielder Rob Guida, who zipped it to John Greeley and on to Ranagan for the winner.
“Anybody who says we’re not willing to play fast, they didn’t watch this game,” Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala said.
It marked the first loss for the Cavaliers since last season’s ACC tournament. At the time, Virginia was a team in disarray before rattling off an unexpected national title run.
These Cavaliers look every bit as ready to earn an extended stay in May, with defeats of Cornell and Syracuse already to their credit. And while Virginia will no longer be No. 1, it knows it wasn’t too far from remaining unbeaten.
“We made too many mistakes to beat Johns Hopkins today,” Starsia said. “That was the end game for us.”
On this day, at least. That doesn’t discount the chance of Round Two in May. It seems more than possible. In fact, it might be a little unfair if there wasn’t an encore.
The final moments weren’t clean. The initial offerings from both teams weren’t particularly memorable. But both the Blue Jays and Cavaliers acquitted themselves well, living up to the hype and maybe even offering a tease of what is to come.
For Hopkins and Virginia, that’s one thing far from a first.
“We knew this was the type of game that it ended up being,” said Virginia goalie Rob Fortunato (13 saves). “They just got the better of us. Hopefully, we’ll see them down the road.”