- The Washington Times - Monday, May 30, 2005

PHILADELPHIA - He plays with virtually no flamboyance and even less fanfare at arguably the most anonymous position in his sport.

He escapes the attention of many fans because he has only eight career goals, and he toils with such little recognition that he didn’t even earn honorable mention All-American status this season despite his work in the defensive midfield.

Benson Erwin, though, is a big reason top-seeded Johns Hopkins (15-0) will play for its first national title since 1987 this afternoon against second-seeded Duke (17-2) at Lincoln Financial Field.

The senior received a rare taste of the spotlight Saturday, scoring in overtime to lift the Blue Jays past Virginia 9-8 in the semifinals. Erwin, who trailed on the play, took a pass from Paul Rabil and deposited a 12-yarder to send Hopkins into its second final in three years.

?I was beaming at the end of that game,? Erwin said. ?I’m not a very big emotional guy, but it was great to come through in that game.?

Erwin was downright talkative after the victory despite his well-earned reputation for taciturnity. Hopkins assistant Seth Tierney estimates the midfielder has said 20 words to him in four years, yet his play has done more than enough talking.

At 6-foot-1, 200 pounds, Erwin plays more physically than the defensemen in the Blue Jays’ scheme. He’s a matchup headache for the midfielders he covers, delivers violent hits in the open field that give pause to opponents and barks out orders like a traffic cop around the goal when defenseman Chris Watson is pulled away from the crease.

That doesn’t even take into account his role in transition. Erwin has four goals on eight shots this season, displaying an affinity for offense that teammate Kyle Harrison, his best friend throughout high school and college, believes would have allowed him to be a dominant two-way player.

?He could play offense for us, but he’s so valuable on defense,? Watson said. ?He’s like having a fifth pole out there. He covers guys just as well if not better than our poles. He’s got that swagger, and nothing fazes him. He just rolls.?

Added Erwin: ?Everyone likes the glory and scoring goals, but I realize my role on this team is to play defense. I just want to do my part for the team and come out and play.?

He has done it for four seasons, imbuing the Blue Jays with toughness and savvy even though it hasn’t always been recognized. His goal Saturday will be remembered for some time, but few realized he was heady enough to recognize the Blue Jays would have numbers in an unsettled situation if he remained on the field on that play rather than come off for an offensive midfielder.

?This is probably the first time Benson Erwin will be in a headline, and it’s probably 3 years late,? Tierney said. ?In our opinion, he was the No.1 short-stick probably for the last two or three years, but the unfortunate part is that he had to score a goal in overtime of a semifinal to get his name in that headline.?

Hopkins could finish off the first perfect season in Division I in eight years today, and years from now the likes of Harrison, Rabil, Watson and Jake Byrne will be recalled as the Blue Jays’ stars. His teammates, though, will know Erwin had as much to do with it as anyone.

?Benson Erwin is the heart of this team,? Harrison said. ?He just does everything. Whether it’s groundballs, playing great defense, working the hardest in the weight room, working the hardest in sprints, working the hardest in everything, that’s what he does. It just made sense that he scored that goal.?

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