- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 29, 2005

PHILADELPHIA — First Johns Hopkins waited out a lightning delay of nearly an hour. Then the Blue Jays stormed past Virginia and into the NCAA men’s tournament final.

Hopkins’ Jake Byrne tied it with a goal in the closing seconds of regulation and Benson Erwin won it with a transition goal in overtime as the top-seeded Blue Jays rallied past No.4 Virginia 9-8 in yesterday’s semifinals before 45,275 at Lincoln Financial Field.

Kip Turner matched a career-high with 18 saves for the Cavaliers (11-4), who bounced back from a 5-8 season in 2004 to make their eighth final four appearance in 12 years.

“I told our kids in the huddle that 2005 is a win for the University of Virginia,” coach Dom Starsia said. “These seasons always end a little abruptly when they end like this, but I’m really proud of our team.”

Hopkins (15-0) set a school record for victories in a season and will play second-seeded Duke (17-2) for its first championship in 18 years tomorrow.

The Blue Jays clinched their Memorial Day date with a near-perfect transition play. Hopkins goalie Jesse Schwartzman stopped Kyle Dixon’s shot and defenseman Tom Garvey scooped up the groundball before sending it downfield to Paul Rabil. The freshman then passed to Erwin, who beat Turner from 12 yards out for the winner.

“I just trailed behind Paul Rabil and he fed it to me,” said Erwin, a senior who scored his eighth career goal. “It was a lucky shot. I just closed my eyes. I wasn’t aiming. I just threw the ball and was fortunate to get a goal.”

Hopkins was simply fortunate to escape with a victory and keep alive its hopes of recording the first perfect season in Division I since Princeton’s unbeaten team in 1997.

Virginia’s Matt Poskay scored an extra-man goal with 4:45 left to give the Cavaliers a 7-6 lead, but a lightning strike delayed the faceoff for 46 minutes. When the teams returned, Hopkins seized possession and got it to Kyle Harrison, who stuck a 10-yarder above Turner’s right shoulder to tie it.

The Cavaliers nursed the clock for the rest of the quarter, content to play for the last shot. Hopkins allowed midfielder Drew Thompson to spend more than two minutes walking behind the cage, a tactic that nearly backfired when Matt Ward zipped a shot past Schwartzman (11 saves) with 12.9 seconds left for his fourth goal of the game.

Midfielder Greg Peyser won the faceoff despite the presence of two Cavaliers poles on the wings and immediately sprinted downfield unimpeded by a Virginia defense scrambling to get set for a shot. He skipped a pass to Byrne, who was matched against a short stick and paused before firing the ball between Turner’s legs with 1.4 seconds remaining.

The memorable finish obscured some downright bizarre occurrences. Neither team scored for the first 25-plus minutes, and the perfect weather of the first three quarters gave way first to heavy gusts that blew hot dog wrappers and paper cups all over the field, then a downpour and then the lightning delay.

“I felt like I was overseas at a soccer game,” Virginia attackman John Christmas said. “There was stuff going all over the place. I remember watching the final four growing up, and I’ve never seen anything like that.”

The storm’s arrival coincided with the Cavaliers’ late surge. Hopkins took a 6-3 lead into the fourth, but Ward sandwiched two goals around Ben Rubeor’s score to make it 6-6 before Poskay’s go-ahead goal just before the delay.

Yet as they have all season, the Blue Jays found a way to win. Hopkins has captured four overtime games this season and improved to 20-4 in one-goal games in coach Dave Pietramala’s five-year tenure.

“It was a roller coaster,” Hopkins defenseman Chris Watson said. “To go from the beginning and then later on, surreal is a great way to put it. But the sun was out at the end.”

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