The situation facing No. 8 Johns Hopkins on Saturday afternoon felt a little familiar to the Blue Jays. Army displayed a few techniques in hopes of obtaining the same result as Navy did against Hopkins a few weeks ago.
Like Navy, No. 20 Army used a deliberate offense and stayed within striking distance for most of the first half Saturday, but Hopkins had two scoring spurts in the second half to turn a close game into a 13-6 victory before a crowd of 5,130 at Homewood Field.
The win closed out an 11-3 regular season for Hopkins, which has won its last two games since being upset, 8-2, by Navy on April 21. The Blue Jays will probably earn at least a top six seed in the 16-team NCAA Division I field which will be announced Sunday night, but head coach Dave Pietramala isn't concerned about brackets.
He just wants his team to play a full 60 minutes.
"It was one of those games where you just don't feel comfortable," Pietramala said. "You knew what was going to happen, you could see it from the first possession. They were going to hold the ball."
"We were horrible in the first quarter, especially offensively," said Pietramala, whose team led only 4-3 at the half. "We were good offensively in the second quarter, but we couldn't put one away. We still haven't played a full 60 minutes yet but I'm just glad that what has happened to other programs didn't happen to us, and we lost [against an inferior team]. This tournament is wide open, and I'm just hoping our best lacrosse is ahead of us."
There were some encouraging signs. Blue Jays junior attackman Zach Palmer had a break out game with five goals and two assists. Fellow attackman Chris Boland had three goals and two assists.
Midfielder John Ranagan, who has struggled shooting in recent weeks, contributed a goal, but more importantly had two assists.
The Hopkins defense was strong. The Blue Jays kept Army's big four of attackmen Garret Thul (one goal), Conor Hayes ( one goal, one assist) and midfielders Devin Lynch ( two goals) and Alex Van Krevel (two goals) under control.
Hopkins started to pull away early in the third quarter on three straight goals, one each from Palmer, midfielder Greg Edmonds and attackman Brandon Benn, for a 7-4 lead midway in the period.
The Blue Jays maintained a three-goal lead, 9-6, at the end of the third, but Palmer scored the first two goals of the fourth for a five-goal advantage with 8:57 remaining.
Palmer scored off a loose ground ball with 11:16 left, and then on a low bouncer. The lead proved insurmountable, especially with the deliberate, slow down offense run by the Knights.
"We were more efficient [Saturday] scoring off turnovers," Palmer said. "When you play a team like that, it's nice to get a lead because it puts a lot of pressure on them. I think we're peaking, and it's the right time to do it. This was definitely one of our better games, and we've got some things to build on."
Hopkins led 2-1 at the end of the first quarter. Boland scored the first goal of the game with 8:47 left in the period, but Lynch got a low bouncer past Pierce Bassett to tie the score nearly three minutes later.
Palmer, operating from behind goal, went to the right of the outside pipe and then launched a shot from about 10 yards out for a goal with 2:10 left in the quarter.
Boland made it 3-1 on a goal with 13:03 left in the second quarter and the Blue Jays gained a three-goal lead about a minute later on a goal from freshman attackman Wells Stanwick, but Army answered with two goals in the remaining time.
The first was on an underhand shot from Thul with 9:01 left in the second period, and Van Krevel pulled the Cadets within 4-3 on a goal with 3:21 remaining in the second quarter.
Pietramala wants his team to be more consistent in the tournament.
"This is a tournament that is more wide open than ever before," Pietramala said. "You can get a great seed at No. 7, or you get a horrible seed being a No. 3 or No. 4 seed. We got a lot of work to do, a lot of improving to do. Anybody can win this tournament."