Beneath the surface of Johns Hopkins' 8-7 win against visiting Loyola on Senior Day in the regular-season home finale lies an undercurrent of concern.
The No. 4 Blue Jays improved to 11-2 before an announced crowd of 5,727 at Homewood Field Saturday despite getting outshot, outhustled and outscored in the second half.
Coach Dave Pietramala's grim expression after the contest telegraphed his thoughts on the team's nail-biting performance that didn't end until the final horn sounded.
"I'm happy. … But we're going to scrutinize this film, I can tell you that," he said. "We have to play for 60 minutes, and we had to execute better today. I don't think we executed very well, and that showed at the end of the game."
Senior attackman Kyle Wharton gave Johns Hopkins a seemingly commanding 8-4 advantage 4 minutes, 37 seconds into the fourth quarter. But the No. 18 Greyhounds were undeterred.
Fifth-year senior attackman Chris Palmer scored with 9:15 remaining. Seventy-nine seconds later, senior midfielder D.J. Comer (two goals and one assist) converted a pass from senior midfielder Chris Basler to trim the deficit to two.
Then with 1:53 left in the final period, sophomore midfielder Davis Butts found sophomore attackman Mike Sawyer alone at the top of the box, and he blistered a shot inside the right post to make it 8-7.
Loyola (8-4) had two chances to send the game into overtime in the final minute. Senior Matt Langan curled around the left post, but his shot appeared to be deflected by Blue Jays senior short-stick defensive midfielder Tim Donovan, and sophomore goalkeeper Pierce Bassett (game-high seven saves) swallowed up the loose ball.
After Johns Hopkins failed to get the ball into the box within the 30-second time frame, Butts' centering pass to Comer missed its target, but Sawyer collected the ground ball and fired at the net from about 15 yards. His shot, however, strayed wide right, and the buzzer sounded.
"I picked it up and tried to get a shot on goal and hoped to get lucky," said Sawyer, the Greyhounds' leader in goals (26) and points (31) who was limited to one goal. "… I didn't really see it. I just turned and shot it and hoped for the best."
The dramatic ending didn't appear likely after the first half, during which the Blue Jays broke a 3-3 tie with three unanswered goals in a 3:08 span near the end of the second quarter to take a 6-3 advantage into halftime.
However, the well dried up in the second half for Johns Hopkins, which got outshot 15-4 and collected just nine ground balls to Loyola's 15 in that span.
Sophomore midfielder John Ranagan, who paced the Blue Jays with two goals, credited the Greyhounds with maintaining possession of the ball for extended stretches, which, in turn, applied pressure on the Johns Hopkins offense to score when it finally got the ball.
"When that happens, we have to do a better job of making each possession count because we don't get as many," he said. "I think we did a little bit of sloppier play in the second half, which kind of hurt us because our possessions were down. Pretty much, it was just execution. We have to play better."
The one-goal margin was the third in the teams' past six meetings. But that was of little consolation to Loyola, which had its five-game winning streak ended and dropped its 12th consecutive game to the Blue Jays.
"Getting used to close games with Johns Hopkins," said coach Charley Toomey, whose Greyhounds are the No. 2 seed in the Eastern College Athletic Conference tournament in Denver later ths week. "… We're a little frustrated in our locker room right now. But we'll learn from it and we'll be a better team on Thursday out in Denver."