Johns Hopkins 9, Virginia 8 (OT)

May 28, 2005

PHILADELPHIA - The national semifinal between Johns Hopkins University and The University of Virginia was not the most important game in collegiate lacrosse history. It was not the best-played game in collegiate lacrosse history. But it may have been the most memorable game in the history of collegiate lacrosse. Johns Hopkins senior midfielder Benson Erwin provided the last of many highlights when he beat Virginias Kip Turner on the far side with 50 .7 seconds remaining in overtime to give top-seed Johns Hopkins (15-0) a 9-8 victory.

It was a surreal experience for me, explained an understated Erwin. [Goaltender] Jesse [Schwartzman] made a big save and I noticed Virginia players going off the field. I was going to go off, but [seeing that] I stayed on. It was a lucky shot. I closed my eyes.

Erwins escapades almost pale in comparison, however, to the roller coaster ride that was the final 15 seconds of regulation. With the score tied at seven, Virginia ran a set play, which cleared some space for attacker Matt Ward. The junior captain ran the play to perfection as he beat Schwartzman to give Virginia (11-4) the lead with 12.9 seconds remaining.

Wards fourth goal of the game and 38th of the season appeared to be the final nail in the coffin the careers of Johns Hopkins widely regarded, but championship-less, senior class. Sophomore attacker Jake Byrne, however, decided to give his senior cohorts one more chance to win that elusive national championship with a play that will be talked about for years to come.

Byrne won a ground ball off the ensuing face off and drove down the field with a vengeance. He then composed himself and laced a rifle shot past Turner to knot the game with 1.4 seconds remaining.

I knew there wasnt much time, said Byrne. The tough part is catching the ball because youre so nervous about shooting.

The second largest crowd in the history of the NCAA mens lacrosse tournament of 45,275 people could not have expected this offensive outburst as the first 30 minutes of play were marked by solid defense and sloppy play.

Despite their familiarity with each other, both teams employed conservative game plans with the hope of feeling the other out. As a result, the first quarter ended as it began with the teams deadlocked at 0-0. The combined zero goals represented the first time in NCAA national semifinal history that both teams failed to score in the first quarter.

Johns Hopkins broke the stalemate when Senior Joseph Malo netted his first of two goals with 4:49 remaining in the second quarter. Senior attacker Peter LeSueur staked Hopkins to a two-goal lead when he beat two defenders and bounced a shot past Virginia goalie Kip Turner with just over two minutes remaining.

Virginia eventually got on the board when Ward beat Schwartzman to the short side with just 1:06 remaining in the first half. Wards first of four goals on the day served to cut the Hopkins lead and half and provide some hope that the Hopkins defense was, in fact, penetrable.

Johns Hopkins attempted to make Virginias task even more difficult when thy netted the first three goals of the second half. Those three tallies, by Byrne, Malo, and senior Kyle Barrie respectively, came in the first five minutes of the half and seemed to signal the beginning of a Hopkins rout.

A change in the weather, however, seemed to spark Virginia just as the fourth quarter began. As a howling wind and pounding rain began to bombard Lincoln Financial Field, the Virginia offense awoke and went on a 4-0 run, which gave the Cavaliers a 7-6 lead with 4:45 remaining in regulation.

Just after Virginia scored the last of those four goals, play was halted for 46 minutes due to lightning in the area. The stoppage of play gave the Blue Jays a chance to compose themselves in the locker room.

There was no panic in the locker room, said head coach Dave Pietramala. [Senior] Greg Raymond told the guys we were going to win a face-off and go down and score.

Raymond should look into fortune telling as senior standout Kyle Harrison won the face-off and proceeded to score immediately as play resumed. That goal set the stage for the remarkable finish which saw Hopkins advance to the National Championship game on Monday. Their opponent in that game will be Duke, a team they beat 11-10 in two overtimes earlier this year.

Pietramala put to rest any thought of a letdown after his teams emotional semifinal win.

There will be no letdown, said Pietramala. The seniors wont allow for a letdown. We may not win, but it wont be because of a letdown.

Johns Hopkins will face off against Duke in a battle of the top-two seeded teams in the tournament. The national championship will be decided on Memorial Day at Lincoln Financial Field at noon. The game can be seen live on ESPN.

-- Courtesy Face Off Phladelphia