The Johns Hopkins men's lacrosse team took the first step in proving that it belongs in the select group of contenders aiming for the national championship.

The offense scored all three goals in the third quarter and the defense did not surrender a goal for more than 20 minutes as the No. 2 Blue Jays defeated No. 7 Syracuse, 11-7, before an announced crowd of 5,970 at Homewood Field in Baltimore on Saturday.

Sophomore attackman Brandon Benn scored a career-best four goals and tied a career high with five points to help Johns Hopkins improve to 7-0 and snap a five-game losing skid to the Orange.

"That's a great win," Blue Jays coach Dave Pietramala said. "Thrilled to get that monkey off our back."

Johns Hopkins recorded its first win in the series since 2007 despite a surprisingly sub-par showing from Zach Palmer. The junior attackman who entered the game leading the team in assists (15) and points (25) was limited to just three shots and finished with one goal by Orange junior defenseman Brian Megill.

The offense in the first half was fueled by the midfield. Junior John Greeley scored both of his goals in the first quarter, junior John Ranagan scored a goal in each of the first and second periods, and sophomore Rob Guida notched an assist in the first quarter and a goal in the second.

"I think we were clicking today," said Greeley, who also added an assist. "We felt pretty good."

As diversified as the Blue Jays offense was, the defense was just as impressive. That unit kept Syracuse off the scoreboard for 20 minutes, 14 seconds spanning the final three quarters.

Junior defenseman Tucker Durkin blanketed Orange senior attackman Tim Desko, who scored just one goal. And sophomore long-stick midfielder Jack Reilly did not allow junior midfielder JoJo Marasco to take a shot.

The defense has prevented six of seven opponents from scoring a goal for at least 20 minutes, and Siena snapped a 19:30 drought in a Johns Hopkins 9-5 victory on Feb. 25.

"Syracuse is a great team, so anytime you can hold them scoreless for a period of time is probably a good thing," Durkin said. "But our offense did a really good job of holding the ball and took the pressure off us by scoring goals and backing up shots and stuff like that. So it's not just the defense holding them scoreless."

Sophomore attackman Derek Maltz paced Syracuse (3-2) with three goals, but coach John Desko said the third quarter was pivotal.

"In the third period when they came out and got those three goals, I thought that really hurt us," Desko said. "We started to play a little more hurried and felt like we had to catch up. And they play such great defense and have such good goaltending, especially when you're behind, you really have to be patient and work for good shots."

Notes: Freshman Wells Stanwick, playing on the second midfield, added a goal and an assist. It was Stanwick's first appearance in four games after injuring his right hand in the week leading to the March 2 contest at Princeton. … Saturday's win sets up a No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown between top-ranked Virginia (8-0) and Johns Hopkins. The Cavaliers rallied back to beat No. 19 Ohio State, 11-9, on Saturday. … Ian Burkhart, the younger brother of senior midfielder Marshall Burkhart, was the Blue Jays' honorary captain. Ian Burkhart broke his neck in a diving accident and has been limited to a wheelchair. The players wore green t-shirts bearing No. 13 — Burkhart's number in high school — during pre-game warm-ups.

edward.lee@baltsun.com

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