For nearly two quarters, the Towson men's lacrosse team played with verve and without fear — two qualities necessary to pull off an upset.
Depending on whom you talked to, however, the Tigers either ran out of steam and answers or No. 4 Johns Hopkins rose to the occasion by scoring nine unanswered goals to walk away with a convincing 12-6 decision before 2,320 at Homewood Field Friday night.
At the outset of the contest, it wasn't difficult to notice that the untested Blue Jays could not found their rhythm while Towson, which had beaten Jacksonville last Saturday, did.
"I think it was obvious in the first five minutes that we were the team that hadn't played a game and that they were the team that had," Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala said. "I thought we were a little uncomfortable, a little anxious. I thought we threw the ball away once or twice on clears early, and then I don't think we threw it away again. So I thought as the game unfolded, we settled down."
Towson never trailed in the first 19 minutes of the contest, taking leads of 1-0 36 seconds into the first quarter, 2-1 with 9:25 left in the period, and 3-2 with 11:43 remaining in the second quarter.
But the Blue Jays ticked off three straight goals — including a goal and an assist from junior attackman Zach Palmer — to take a 5-3 lead into halftime.
"I don't think there was really any sense of urgency," said Palmer, who finished with a game-high six points on three goals and three assists. "It was still early in the game and it was in the first quarter, so obviously we're going to have those jitters. But I think as soon as we got a couple in, we could start building some confidence, and from there, everyone was comfortable, and we executed what we had to do."
Johns Hopkins extended that dominance into the second half, scoring six times spanning the third and fourth quarters before the Tigers mounted a minor comeback.
Despite the game being the season opener for the Blue Jays, it was Towson that was sloppy with the ball. The Tigers committed 21 turnovers to Johns Hopkins' 12, and they succeeded on just 17-of-25 clears.
Those gaffes were magnified by the team's decisive advantage on faceoffs where the junior Matt Thomas win 11-of-14 draws through the first three quarters.
"Obviously when you lose, it's always going to be frustrating, but when you lose giving another team a lot of the opportunities that we did, that's what makes it even worse," coach Shawn Nadelen said. "I don't feel that what Hopkins did to us tonight, besides maybe a couple things, really beat us. I feel like our mistakes — not burying shots, not handling some pressure on clears, a little miscommunication at times defensively — that's what really took a toll on us and gave them some opportunities to stretch a lead out that we definitely couldn't control."
Blue Jays senior attackman Chris Boland added four goals for his ninth career hat trick, but left the game after his fourth score with 9:27 remaining in the third quarter and did not return.
Pietramala did not have much information on the veteran's status, saying, "Chris is a little banged up. So the doctor's going to look at him. I don't know where he is right now. The doctor will look at him tomorrow, and we'll figure it out from there."
The Tigers were led by senior attackman Sean Maguire and junior attackman Matt Hughes, both of whom registered one goal and one assist. Redshirt freshman midfielder Robby Zoppo scored twice.
Notes: Johns Hopkins improved its record in the annual rivalry to 37-3 and has won the last 17 meetings. … Towson's last win in the series on April 17, 1996 was also the team's last victory at Homewood Field. … Blue Jays junior faceoff specialist Mike Poppleton did not play for undisclosed reasons. "Mike could've been available," Pietramala said. "We decided to hold him, and Mike will be available on Tuesday night [against No. 16 Delaware]."