- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 20, 2008

ANNAPOLIS — Navy could have used a slight swing of luck to defeat Johns Hopkins in any of the last four years.

Yesterday a few extra bounces might have made it close as No. 10 Johns Hopkins capitalized on both talent and fortune in ripping the No. 8 Midshipmen 12-5 before 16,042 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

Kevin Huntley scored three goals for the Blue Jays (5-5), whose once-imperiled season was further stabilized by a second straight victory.

And though Johns Hopkins twice scored off faceoffs and two more times off deflections, it pummeled the Midshipmen (9-4) because it seized an early lead and forced Navy into a more impatient, inefficient style of play.

“They’re the type of team that is opportunistic,” Navy defenseman Jordan DiNola said. “A couple of those plays where the ball just pops out in front of the net, and they’re just in the right spot to stick a goal. Those things over the course of a game just compound on each other. Late in the game, we were playing an entirely different brand of lacrosse than we’re used to.”

The loss also landed the Mids in a place with which they are unaccustomed. Navy has dropped three of four heading into the Patriot League tournament and might need at least one victory in next weekend’s event to secure a fifth consecutive NCAA tournament berth.

Navy has scored only 16 goals in its last three games, managing a victory at Maryland during the stretch in part because the Terrapins were enduring their own offensive foibles. Yesterday the Mids showed few signs of emerging from their recent struggles.

Johns Hopkins pounced early for a 4-0 lead, and Tim Paul’s back-to-back goals late in the first quarter provided some hope. But Huntley scored off the ensuing faceoff, and the Blue Jays were never threatened again.

While Johns Hopkins freely used five attackmen and deployed its third midfield line on multiple occasions, the Mids gradually were forced into taking more outside shots. Navy was blanked for 32:34, a stretch that finally ended with Gregory Clement’s score off a rebound late in the fourth quarter.

It was the 34th consecutive victory in the series for the Blue Jays, who controlled possession time much as they had in a rout of Maryland a week earlier. Johns Hopkins also received 16 saves from sophomore goalie Michael Gvozden, whose improvement mirrors the progress of the suddenly looser defending national champions.

“It seems like as soon as we won the Maryland game, the weight was lifted off our chest,” Huntley said. “We stopped worrying about losing and thinking that we had to win and just went out and played.”

Navy would be lucky if it could adopt a similar approach next weekend. The Mids have won the Patriot League tournament the last four years, and they do possess road victories over Maryland and Ohio State to bolster their postseason case.

But a loss in Friday’s semifinals against Colgate would mean four losses in five games, perhaps nullifying the Mids’ most notable achievements.

“All of our lacrosse, everything we want to do is in front of us,” Navy coach Richie Meade said. “We’re going to the Patriot League tournament. All of this stuff is just lessons…. We will show up and we will play very, very well. I’m not overly concerned about whether my team is going to respond.”

Still, troubling signs remain. The Blue Jays, who escaped the last four meetings with one-goal victories, dealt Navy its most lopsided loss since a 17-3 pummeling at Johns Hopkins in 2003. The Mids also were limited to six or fewer goals for the third straight game, their longest such streak since 1997.

“I think we’re real close to turning that corner, but we’re just not there yet,” Navy senior Nick Mirabito said.

A little luck — and a lot of offense — certainly wouldn’t hurt.

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