- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 8, 2005

BALTIMORE — Johns Hopkins is ready for the real season to begin.

The top-ranked Blue Jays shook off a shaky first half to dispatch Loyola 12-6 before 7,356 yesterday at Homewood Field to cap a perfect regular season.

All but assured the No. 1 seed when the NCAA tournament field is announced tonight even before its meeting with its Charles Street rival, Hopkins (12-0) scored a dozen times for the first time in five games to wrap up the first undefeated regular season in Division I since Loyola in 1999.

Most would be ecstatic over such an accomplishment. Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala instead breathed a sigh of relief, eager to finally get on with the postseason.

“There seemed to be this giant pressure,” Pietramala said. “Senior Day, finish the regular season undefeated. You know what? I’m glad it’s over. All of the distractions are over now. Undefeated doesn’t matter because everybody’s undefeated right now.”

The postseason brings its own set of distractions, but probably not many the Blue Jays aren’t ready for. Hopkins won its 34th straight at Homewood, where it is certain to remain for the tournament’s first two rounds. The Blue Jays also enjoyed their usual balance, with Jake Byrne, Greg Peyser, Paul Rabil and Kevin Huntley each scoring twice, senior Joe Malo adding a goal and three assists and goalie Jesse Schwartzman making nine saves while allowing just three goals.

Hopkins brushed aside a sloppy first half marked by eight turnovers and a 3-for-9 effort on faceoffs to pull away after the break. The Blue Jays won five of the six faceoffs in the third quarter, keeping the ball away from a Greyhound team that was content to burn the clock in the first half. Armed with almost constant possession, Hopkins ripped off eight straight goals to finish Loyola’s upset hopes.

“The last couple of weeks have been difficult,” Pietramala said. “You’ve got a senior-laden team that’s heard it all. You’re telling them, ‘Let’s go, pick it up, we have to practice better’ — they’ve heard all that. It’s tough when you’re getting everybody’s best shot, and we got Loyola’s best shot today.”

The unranked Greyhounds (5-8) managed only two of the second half’s first 26 shots as they finished the program’s first back-to-back losing seasons since 1983. But it was the missed opportunities that cost Loyola, which trailed 4-3 at halftime, any chance to salvage its season with a rare victory over the Blue Jays.

“Bottom line is that we should have been up three or four at halftime,” Loyola coach Bill Dirrigl said. “It was the best half we’ve played, but when you play someone as good and as well-coached as Johns Hopkins, you have to play for 60 minutes.”

It was a typical result for the Blue Jays, who have navigated their usual …take-on-all-comers schedule. Despite facing eight teams ranked in this week’s top 20, Hopkins emerged unscathed in the regular season for the first time since 1995.

“The cool thing is that we didn’t think about it at all before the season,” Hopkins defenseman Chris Watson said. “You look at our schedule in February, and it doesn’t make sense to think about going undefeated. … It’s exciting, but it’s more about just trying to get better every week and build for our big picture.”

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