May 15, 2010

By Harold Gutmann
Special to

DURHAM, N.C.--Johns Hopkins hasn't hasn't missed the NCAA Division I lacrosse quarterfinals since 1991 and the Blue Jays' last losing season occurred in 1971.

But both impressive streaks came to an end on Saturday as No. 5 Duke thumped Johns Hopkins 18-5 in a first-round NCAA tournament clash at Koskinen Stadium.

Duke's 18 goals were three more than Hopkins had allowed all season, while the five goals scored by the Jays were a season-low.

Steven Boyle and Tom Palasek each had two goals and an assist for Hopkins (7-8), which needed to win its last two regular-season games just to reach .500 and be eligible for this year's tournament.

"We got away from everything that made us who we are, and went back to the things that forced us to struggle," coach Dave Pietramala said. "They (the Blue Devils)played like a very hungry and experienced team, and that experience exploited us between the boxes."

Duke dominated ground balls 37-17 and won two-thirds of the faceoffs (18-9), including a 14-5 effort from Sam Payton. It was still an 8-4 game at halftime, but Ned Crotty -- the nation's leader in assists -- found Zach Howell 57 seconds into the second half and the rout was on.

"It felt like early on, despite not playing particularly well, we were hanging around, we were in it, and then the first goal of the second half killed us," Pietramala said.

There would be nine more Duke goals in the second half before the Blue Jays finally responded.

"Offensively we turned the ball over, we didn't take care of it, and I think it snowballed from there," Boyle said. "We rushed our shots a little bit and they're very good defensively, they were picking off passes, and you just have to give credit to Duke's defense."

Duke, meanwhile, scored every conceivable way: off the faceoff, the riding game, the extra man and transition. When it was over, five Blue Devils had at least two goals apiece.

"They played like a group that played in championship games and we came out on the shorter end of it," Pietramala said. "They played like a group that really wanted to move on."

Hopkins' illustrious history may have hurt them this time by making Duke even hungrier. The Blue Jays had ended the Blue Devils' season in the Final Four three of the past five years.

"The fact we drew Hopkins, I think we were all scared," Duke coach John Danowski said. "We knew of their talent and their coaching staff's ability to prepare a team. We respected them so much, it really created a focus in our group really early on, as soon as we saw the draw."

Still, there's evidence that Hopkins may bounce back quickly. The losing record came partly because the Blue Jays faced all of the Top 6 teams in this week's coach's poll -- Virginia, Syracuse, Maryland, North Carolina, Duke and Princeton.

Also the Blue Jays have seven freshmen in the regular rotation, including starting goalie Pierce Bassett, who made nine saves.

That youth didn't help when Hopkins ran up against Duke, who showed the same level of play that the Blue Devils used to hand Virginia its only loss of the season.

"I said to the guys last night how proud I was of them, they're preparation this past week," Danowski said. "I thought all week the guys were extremely focused, practiced really well, prepared really well, gave great effort. Part of the success of this afternoon was certainly directed towards how we practiced during the week."