- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 23, 2004

CHARLOTTESVILLE — When Johns Hopkins needs a key goal, the Blue Jays usually turn to Conor Ford, one of the country’s best finishers.

Yesterday at Scott Stadium, Ford nearly finished off North Carolina by himself. He matched a career high with five goals as Hopkins routed the Tar Heels 15-9 in the NCAA men’s tournament quarterfinals. The Blue Jays will meet the winner of today’s Georgetown-Syracuse game on Saturday at Baltimore’s M&T; Bank Stadium.

“He’s the best All-American no one talks about,” said Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala, who will catch a 6a.m. flight this morning to scout today’s quarterfinals in Ithaca, N.Y. “We run some things so that he can get shots, and he’s just been terrific. I’m amazed sometimes by his ability to put the ball in the goal.”

Kyle Harrison and Matt Rewkowski had three goals each, and defensive midfielder Benson Erwin added a goal and two assists for the top-seeded Blue Jays (13-1), who have reached three straight final fours for the first time since the program’s remarkable 12-year semifinal streak from 1976 to 1987.

Ford, a senior whose precise shot is enhanced by the Blue Jays’ many other offensive weapons, dissected the eighth-seeded Tar Heels (10-5) to help Hopkins pull away in the second quarter. He took Harrison’s feed and scored with 10:41 left in the half, then deposited Greg Peyser’s pass from 12 yards out a minute later to make it 6-3.

The spurt continued later in the quarter when Ford was at the finishing end of Tom Garvey’s forced turnover and Erwin’s clearing sprint. Ford also zipped a 3-yarder past Carolina goalie Paul Spellman (13 saves) with 1:32 left and then added an extra-man goal less than two minutes into the second half to extend the lead to 9-4.

“I felt like in the first game [a 10-9 Hopkins victory April 3] — all the plays we were running to go against their zone and their man-to-man were getting me some shots, but I was wasting a lot of them,” said Ford, who has a team-high 42 goals. “For this game, I was concentrating on getting every opportunity I got on the goal.”

The Tar Heels rallied, cobbling together three quick goals to close within 9-7 before Pietramala called a timeout. Harrison beat long pole Hayward Howard one-on-one less than a minute later, and Erwin quickly added a wraparound goal to quash North Carolina’s momentum.

The Tar Heels’ Kevin Frew had the better of the faceoff matchup, winning 17 of 28 draws from the Blue Jays’ committee of Harrison, Peyser and Lou Braun, but it hardly mattered. Hopkins held a slim lead in groundballs (41-39), and Garvey held Tewaaraton finalist Jed Prossner to two goals and an assist to limit the key cog in North Carolina’s offense.

Hopkins, the heavy favorite since the preseason to win its first national title in 17 years, now will enjoy another final weekend just miles from its campus while avoiding the embarrassment of having to watch a final four in Baltimore on TV.

“It would have been a difficult pill to swallow to be sitting in the stands in our hometown,” Pietramala said.

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