Johns Hopkins won its sixth consecutive game and its 24th straight in the month of April before a homecoming crowd of 4,276 yesterday, yet the Blue Jays looked anything but happy as they walked off of Homewood Field.
The Blue Jays can thank an inspired Towson team for wiping the smiles off their faces.
The day after Tigers coach Tony Seaman suspended 11 players -- including six starters and his entire front-line attack -- for violating curfew during a road trip at Vermont last weekend, Towson made life surprisingly difficult for the No. 6 Blue Jays, before falling, 10-8.
It bordered on an embarrassing victory for Hopkins, which faces a crucial test on Saturday at No. 3 Loyola, where the winner probably will receive a first-round bye in the NCAA tournament. Once they took a 7-2 lead with 11: 03 left in the first half, the Blue Jays hardly resembled a team that fancies itself a national championship contender.
"The taste in my mouth before the game was that a lot of guys, including myself, were looking past those guys," said Hopkins freshman attackman Adam Doneger, who led all scorers with four goals. "The final score shows you that you can't do that. Our heads were everywhere. Once it was 7-2, we got a little cocky. We were flat."
Hopkins turned the ball over way too often, missed way too many high-percentage shots and generally spent way too much time in the sleepwalk mode. And the Tigers, who dressed only 27 players for the game and came to Homewood with only three victories in 2000, sensed the Blue Jays' nonchalance and responded in kind.
As quickly as a rout appeared to be unfolding, there was no folding in Towson, which ran off four unanswered goals to cut Hopkins' lead to 7-6 at halftime. The Blue Jays never led by more than two goals after that, while managing just three scores over the game's final 40 minutes.
Hopkins, which missed several point-blank shots and even failed to convert an open-net opportunity, did not gain breathing room down the stretch until senior All-America attackman Dan Denihan scored his only goal with 5: 10 left to make it 10-8. Senior goalkeeper Brian Carcaterra made two saves in the final three minutes to secure the victory.
"That's as bad as any lacrosse team of mine has ever played," Hopkins coach John Haus said. "Up and down the field, it was a completely uninspired effort by our team. I've got to find a way to get them to play better. At this time of the year, you've got to be consistent, especially if you plan on accomplishing the goals we have."
Towson (3-9) heads to top-seeded Hofstra on Wednesday night for the America East Conference semifinals. The Tigers can gain an automatic bid to the NCAAs if they win the tournament.
"I knew we were going to play our hearts out, and we did," said junior defenseman Mike Machiran, who guarded Denihan (one goal, three assists) impressively. "We're better than our record says."
Bobby Benson and A.J. Haugen each scored twice for Hopkins, which had trouble solving Towson goalie John Horrigan (13 saves). The Blue Jays also missed the cage repeatedly, as their 10-for-46 shooting attests.
It was a day of mixed emotions for Seaman, who returned to the Hopkins campus to coach for the first time since getting fired in 1998 after eight seasons, four of which produced trips to the Final Four.
Seaman watched players such as Denihan, Carcaterra and Haugen, whom he recruited. He watched a group of benchwarmers represent his new home by stalking the heavily favored Blue Jays. Then, he returned to Towson's locker room, where the 11 players awaited the rest of the team after serving their one-game penalty.
"I needed to make a statement. I did the right thing, and every one of those 11 knows it," said Seaman, who found out about the violation on Monday, then penalized the offending players by making them practice on the scout team all week. "Those kids have made so many good decisions all year. But they made a bad decision, and they have to pay the consequences."
As for his return to Homewood, Seaman was not exactly sentimental.
"I certainly miss those [players], but I don't miss Hopkins for a second," he said. "I love where I am."