Third quarters have not been kind to the Johns Hopkins men’s lacrosse team. Entering Saturday night’s game against No. 20 Princeton, the No. 18 Blue Jays had been outscored 8-4 in the third quarter, which trailed only their minus-5 goal differential in the fourth quarter this season.
But it was the third quarter that proved to be the key to Johns Hopkins’ 16-9 rout of the visiting Tigers before an announced 1,692 at Homewood Field.
The victory was the first for the Blue Jays (2-2) since opening the season with a 14-6 thumping of Towson on Feb. 10. It was an especially welcome sight after a 13-11 loss to then-No. 12 North Carolina eight days earlier, and it occurred against a Princeton offense that had scored 15 goals in a three-goal loss to then-No. 6 Virginia on Feb. 24.
“This is a good win against a good team,” Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala said. “That’s a very good offensive team. I watched them against Virginia, and they played really well to pout those numbers.”
If there was a turning point to the game, it was the third quarter. Clinging to a 6-5 lead at halftime and facing a man-down situation for the first 35.2 seconds of the third quarter, Johns Hopkins got a caused turnover from sophomore defenseman Owen Colwell to kill Princeton’s extra-man opportunity. And just 74 seconds into the quarter, freshman midfielder Connor DeSimone ran in from the left wing to the high slot to give the Blue Jays a two-goal lead.
Less than two minutes later, sophomore attackman Cole Williams (Loyola Blakefield) ranged to the high slot and scored one of his game-high four goals. Then with Tigers short-stick defensive midfielder Chase Williams serving a 30-second penalty for pushing, sophomore attackman Forry Smith converted a centering pass from senior midfielder Joel Tinney for a 9-5 advantage with 10:44 remaining.
Tinney, who set a career-best with four assists and added a goal in the fourth quarter, said the players have emphasized coming out of halftime with a renewed sense of concentration.
“We’re just making sure that it’s not just intensity and that we’re hooting and hollering,” Tinney said. “We also wanted to be focused and ready to go. We want to focus on the task at hand and execute and not just the rah-rah of the game.”
Princeton trimmed the lead to three when sophomore attackman Michael Sowers curled around the right post and flicked the ball into the bottom left corner with 3:57 left. But that was the Tigers’ first goal in a span of 22:17, and Johns Hopkins converted another man-up chance when junior attackman Kyle Marr (two goals, three assists) fed Smith in the high slot for a 10-6 lead with 2:08 remaining.
“I think that was the most important quarter of the game,” Smith said. “Our defense came out and shut down the man-up, and we put up three or four quick goals early. That’s always huge for our offense.”
Pietramala pointed to the play of the man-down defense. That unit snuffed out a Princeton flip play with Colwell forcing the turnover. On another Tigers extra-man opportunity with 13:25 left in the third quarter, senior goalkeeper Brock Turnbaugh (Hereford) turned away shots by senior midfielder Austin Sims and sophomore midfielder Connor McCarthy to preserve the team’s 8-6 lead.
“I thought the most pivotal point of the third quarter was we went into the second half with 36 seconds left on the penalty and they set a little play where they run a flip or a fake flip and I thought the guys did a great job of executing and keeping up the pressure, and they turned it over,” Pietramala said. “And then we wound up getting another stop on man-down, and Brock made a great save. So I thought that moment was huge for us because after that, we were able to stretch the lead and go up by a few. So that first five to seven minutes of the third quarter were huge.”
The Blue Jays also had the edge in time of possession thanks to senior Hunter Moreland going 4-for-5 in the third quarter en route to posting career highs in faceoff wins (20) and ground balls (14).
The Tigers were paced by Sowers, who had a game-best six points on three goals and three assists. Asked to assess the key to the outcome, Princeton coach Matt Madalon said simply, “Possessions.”
“We lost the possession battle,” Madalon said. “Their kid did a great job at the faceoff X. His play made the difference.”
Princeton 4 1 1 3 — 9
Johns Hopkins 3 3 4 6 — 16
Goals: P—Sowers 3, McCarthy 2, Robertson 2, Brown, Cordrey; J—Williams 4, Valis 3, DeSimone 2, Marr 2, Smith 2, Baskin, Stanwick, Tinney. Assists: P—Sowers 3, Brown, Robertson, Sims; J—Tinney 4, Marr 3, Stanwick. Saves: P—Blaisdell 11; J—Turnbaugh 6.