- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 23, 2006

ANNAPOLIS — Navy sprayed shot after shot wide or high for more than three quarters as it outplayed Johns Hopkins without building a big lead.

Eventually, all those misses allowed the No. 10 Blue Jays to rally for a 9-8 victory yesterday before 13,857 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, costing the No. 3 Midshipmen the chance to end a three-decade losing streak to their intrastate rival.

Navy (9-3) shot 8-for-49 — including a collective 1-for-30 by Ian Dingman and Billy Looney — as it lost to Hopkins (6-4) for the 32nd straight time.

“We were playing well and we had a two-goal lead, and we had the opportunity to really get a good cushion,” said Navy attackman Jon Birsner, who had two goals and four assists. “I think that was a big deal in the game. We couldn’t get that three-goal lead. We kept getting our shots and getting our shots and we just couldn’t put them away.”

If there was ever a chance for Navy to put an end to its Hopkins hex, this seemed to be the year. The youthful Blue Jays were coming off a humbling loss to Maryland, while the Mids returned home after consecutive road wins over Maryland and Army.

Navy led 7-5 in the closing seconds of the third quarter. Looney — who scored in the first minute of the game — drilled a shot off the pipe that would have provided that three-goal advantage.

Instead, Hopkins pounced early in the final period. Attackman Jake Byrne spun off Navy’s Tommy Wallin and fired a behind-the-back shot past goalie Matt Russell (six saves) 75 seconds into the fourth quarter, and freshman Tom Duerr dumped in a goal in an unsettled situation off the ensuing faceoff to tie it.

“This has been our pattern,” Navy coach Richie Meade said. “We played extremely well defensively and made just a few mistakes.”

The teams traded goals, but Hopkins’ Jamison Koesterer continued to win faceoffs (6-for-6 in the second half after receiving stitches for a second-quarter collision) as the Blue Jays corrected an earlier imbalance of possession.

Hopkins prodded the Navy defense, and midfielder Paul Rabil eventually slightly drew a slide away from teammate Kevin Huntley, who slipped in underneath, accepted the pass and dribbled a shot past Russell for the game-winner.

“I got hit a with a few balls and instead of deflecting out, they deflected in,” Russell said. “It was sort of the way the day went.”

Navy failed to convert its final two chances to tie it. Defensive midfielder Geoff Leone ran a 4-on-3 break and, after Hopkins’ defensemen held their ground, fired a low shot that goalie Jesse Schwartzman (11 saves) deftly stopped. In the final 10 seconds, Looney missed a shot wide right and Dingman (0-for-12) dropped a pass from Birsner as Hopkins secured the win.

The win relieves pressure for Hopkins, which was in danger of falling to .500 or worse this late in the season for the first time since 1971. The defending national champions now boast victories over Navy and Syracuse and are in solid shape to reach the NCAA tournament for the 35th straight season.

“This win could be a turning point in our season,” Byrne said. “This is something we need to build on.”

As for the Mids, their streak against Hopkins will live on for another year — unless the teams meet again next month in the NCAA tournament. Navy has lost five of the teams’ last seven meetings by a goal, including three in overtime.

“It’s a hard one to get through,” Birsner said. “The last three years have been one-goal losses. The wins have been there for us to take, and we come up just short. Frustration is there, but after today, it’s over because it’s the playoffs now.”

No. 1 Virginia 21, Bellarmine 10

CHARLOTTESVILLE — Danny Glading, Matt Poskay, Ben Rubeor and Matt Ward each had hat tricks by halftime as the Cavaliers (12-0) tuned up for next weekend’s ACC title game with a rout of the Knights (6-8). Garrett Billings added two goals and three assists for Virginia, which scored 20 goals for the fourth time this season.

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