PRINCETON, N.J. - The Johns Hopkins lacrosse team's annual season-opening litmus test against Princeton yielded far more positives than negatives yesterday.
The second-ranked Blue Jays looked extremely good offensively in the first half and for the rest of the game leaned on a physical defense and senior goalie Rob Scherr. And when confronted with the biggest push from the savvy six-time NCAA champion Tigers, Johns Hopkins had a winning response.
Hard-to-please Blue Jays coach Dave Pietramala had to take some satisfaction in a 10-8 victory over the top-ranked Tigers before 3,103 at a chilly Class of 1952 Stadium. His team dominated for nearly three quarters before making the key plays down the stretch.
"It's a game everybody wonders why the heck we play so early," said Pietramala, whose Blue Jays have faced Princeton in 14 straight season openers. "It's a chance to find out where we are, and I don't think we knew that coming in. I think both teams are pretty good."
Hopkins led 4-1 after the first quarter, 8-3 at halftime and after they were shut out in the third and saw their lead reduced to one, the Blue Jays got fourth-quarter goals from senior Adam Doneger and sophomore Kyle Barrie to close the deal.
"They were more ready at the outset than we were," said Princeton coach Bill Tierney, who recruited and coached Pietramala at Hopkins. "They got us into a hole."
The Blue Jays' season ended last year at the hands of the Tigers in the final four. Few Blue Jays took the 11-9 loss as hard as senior Bobby Benson, who was held without a point in that game.
Yesterday, Benson, the opportunistic attackman out of McDonogh, scored three goals and added two assists, all in the first half.
"I have struggled every time I've played against them, but I'm so happy Scott Farrell graduated," Benson said of the Tigers defender that had marked him over the past few years. "They had to focus on our other guys, and that opened up things inside for me."
The Blue Jays also got two goals each from Doneger and sophomore Peter LeSueur and a steady, nine-save performance from Scherr, a senior who started two years ago, but backed up All-American Nick Murtha last year.
Scherr credited his defense, particularly senior Michael Peyser, who held former Gilman star Ryan Boyle to two assists in what Pietramala called "a first-team, All-American performance."
Benson was equally as impressive. After Kevin Boland (Gilman) victimized a late sliding defense with a hard shot over the shoulder of Tigers goalie Julian Gould (13 saves), Benson converted off an unsettled situation for a 6-3 Hopkins lead 2:28 before halftime.
Then, Benson ventured from the crease and fed LeSueur, who caught the pass while in the air and deposited it into the back of the net. A rocket by Doneger six seconds before halftime made it 8-3.
But goals by senior Nick Hartofilis (two goals, one assist), Josh White (St. Mary's) and Matt Trevenen cut the Blue Jays' lead to 8-6 with 1:18 left in the third quarter.
It was an 8-7 game after senior Owen Daly handcuffed Scherr, his former high school teammate at McDonogh, with a shot with just five seconds to play in the quarter.
But Doneger converted a pass from Conor Ford and Barrie finished Corey Harned's feed in transition for a 10-7 Hopkins lead with 3:09 to play.
"This just feels really good," Scherr said. "It is a long season, but Princeton's an excellent team. We'll probably see them again."
Johns Hopkins 4 4 0 2 - 10
Princeton 1 2 4 1 - 8
Goals: JHU-B. Benson 3, LeSueur 2, A. Doneger 2, Barrie, Harrison, Boland; P-Hartofilis 2, J. Doneger 2, Dumont, White, Trevenen, Daly. Assists: JHU-B. Benson 2, Ford 2, Barrie, A. Doneger, McDermott, Harned; P-Boyle 2, White, Hartofilis, Trevenen, MacColl. Saves: JHU-Scherr 9; P-Gould 13. A: 3,103.