This time, the comeback wasn't wasted.
A year ago, Johns Hopkins climbed back from an 8-0 hole only to lose to Towson State on a last-second goal.
The Tigers were fast starters again last night, moving out to a 7-1 lead midway through the third quarter, but the Blue Jays rallied for an 11-9 victory before 4,891 at Minnegan Stadium.
The No. 4 Blue Jays (10-2) undoubtedly play the toughest schedule in college lacrosse, and the Tigers (5-4) were their fourth worthy opponent in the past 11 days. Hopkins outscored Towson State 10-2 during the final 22 minutes and 4-0 in the last five, with junior midfielder Todd Cavallaro forcing a 9-9 tie with 1:41 left and scoring the winner on an isolation play with 36 seconds remaining.
"That's the best comeback I've ever been a part of," said Tony Seaman, Hopkins' third-year coach. "We came back on them last year, but this time we got it for real."
While Hopkins' sixth straight win strengthened its hold on one of the four first-round byes in the 12-team NCAA tournament, Towson State hoped it sent a message to the selection committee. The Tigers need to beat Maryland Wednesday at Minnegan Stadium, and get a favorable call a week from today when the field is announced.
"We're just a shot short in a couple of games," said Towson State coach Carl Runk, whose team lost in overtime to Navy two weeks earlier.
Just like in a make-it, take-it basketball game, the team with a hot faceoff hand can control the momentum in a lacrosse game, and the Tigers had a 15-7 advantage last night. The Tigers won the first six draws and moved out to a 6-1 halftime lead. The Blue Jays won their share in the second half, however.
The Tigers appeared to have their third regular-season win over the Blue Jays in five years when Steve Carcaterra -- their last-second hero against Hopkins in 1992 -- made it 9-7 with 5:04 left.
Junior Brian Piccola scored unassisted three minutes later, however, and Cavallaro swatted in the tying goal after Brian Kelly had lost possession.
Towson State won the faceoff, but the Tigers lost the ball on a delay of game penalty.
Cavallaro rolled from behind the cage on freshman goalie Brian Whalen's right for the winner, and Terry Riordan got his fifth goal with 19 seconds remaining.
"I'm usually not in that position," said Cavallaro, a 5-foot-8, 150-pounder who didn't have a point in the first 58 minutes. He came into the game with seven goals and seven assists.
Hopkins scored seven times in the fourth quarter, after Whalen and the Towson State defense had kept them without a goal during a 26-minute span that began in the first period and lasted into the third.
Johns Hopkins had cut the six-goal difference to 7-4 entering the third quarter on three straight goals by Riordan, and rode that momentum into the fourth quarter. Colin McDermott got the Towson lead back up to 8-4, but the Blue Jays answered with another three straight goals, drawing within 8-7 on Piccola's extra-man goal with 10:44 left.
Carcaterra's fourth goal briefly slowed the visitors.
Johns Hopkins had limited opportunities in the opening minutes, but the Blue Jays started the scoring with 12:04 elapsed, as Dave Marr fed Riordan.
The rest of the first half belonged to the Tigers. Tim Lucky and Mark Goers dominated the faceoffs, and Joe Genovese and Carcaterra got the attack going.
In a six-minute span, Carcaterra scored on a rebound, in transition and after Todd Fields stole a Hopkins pass.
Genovese made it 6-1 with 1:44 left in the half, after defenseman Tim Sullivan slipped behind the cage.
Freshman goalie Jonathan Marcus was unable to stop Genovese's
roll, but his unit was formidable in the second half, as the Tigers were limited to two goals in the final 27 minutes.
Tom Sullivan, Scott Mollica and Rob Burke start on the Blue Jays' close defense.
"We wanted to play ball control [in the second half], but maybe we should've attacked more," Runk said.
Johns Hopkins finishes the regular season at No. 3 Syracuse Friday night.