- The Washington Times - Friday, March 25, 2005

It’s time for the game of the year — well, at least the first one anyway.

Top-ranked Johns Hopkins welcomes second-ranked Virginia to Baltimore for the first meeting between No. 1 and No. 2 this season.

The game features two of the three remaining unbeatens (No. 3 Duke is the other) and is the first top-two game at Homewood Field since Hopkins-Syracuse in 2002. It’s also a chance for Virginia to claim the No. 1 ranking less than a year after finishing a humbling 5-8 season.

“There are certain games where you have to think of ways to get your players’ attention,” Virginia coach Dom Starsia said. “This one may be one of settling them down rather than working them up. I hear the buzz. There’s buzz amongst the kids, buzz in the background.”

No kidding. The Cavaliers already have beaten Princeton and Syracuse and are 6-0 for the first time since 1996. With a victory today they can match the 1973 team for the best start in school history.

To do so, they’ll have to topple a Hopkins team that rallied from a six-goal deficit to upend Syracuse in overtime at the Carrier Dome in its last outing. The Blue Jays (4-0) also have won 29 straight at Homewood — a streak dating to Virginia’s quadruple-overtime 9-8 victory in 2001 that served as future All-American goalie Tillman Johnson’s coming out party.

Virginia has beaten Hopkins at least once in each of the last five seasons, including the 2003 national title game and last year’s 9-8 overtime thriller in Charlottesville. Nevertheless, Starsia isn’t willing to “sell our soul for one [win] with the schedule we play,” even though it is a 1-2 battle.

“If we win, it sets the table for us for the second half of the season, but it’s one of those games where the final result isn’t going to impact either team’s goals,” Starsia said. “You can go in fearlessly, and try to go in and play our [butts] off. If we don’t win, maybe we’ll get another shot at them down the road.”

Are Devils due?

While the showdown at Homewood is rightfully being hyped, it probably shouldn’t completely overshadow today’s intriguing matchup featuring No. 3 Duke (8-0) at No. 5 Georgetown (4-1).

The Blue Devils have a chance to match the best start in program history (1999) after missing out on back-to-back NCAA tournaments for the first time since 1990-91.

“We’re basically with the same team,” Duke coach Mike Pressler said. “The same 17 freshmen and sophomores in 2004 are sophomores and juniors in 2005. Even though we don’t have many seniors, there’s a lot of hunger on this team after being disappointed with a 5-8 season. We’re a good team that seems to be getting better each week.”

Led by freshman lefty Zack Greer (who leads the nation with 26 goals), sophomore Matt Danowski (13 goals, 15 assists) and senior goalie Aaron Fenton (6.60 GAA), Duke has a chance to snap a four-game losing streak to the Hoyas and add Georgetown to its impressive list of early-season victims. It probably won’t be easy, given the history of the series — six of the teams’ last eight meetings have been decided by two goals or less.

“If we can beat Georgetown, Maryland and Carolina all on the road, all in the month of March, that would certainly be a great accomplishment,” Pressler said.

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