Twice before Johns Hopkins junior midfielder Paul Rabil suddenly found himself open and staring at the Princeton goal, the No. 8 Blue Jays had missed a chance to take down the top-ranked Tigers.
First, senior attackman Jake Byrne was stuffed by Princeton junior goalie Alex Hewit in the final seconds of regulation. Next, Byrne's apparent game-winning 10-yard shot was waved off after time barely had expired in the first overtime. Finally, Rabil settled the game and helped Hopkins avoid its first 0-2 start since 1971.
After a shot by Byrne that caromed off the left post, Rabil took a pass from junior midfielder Stephen Peyser and drilled a 10-yarder into the upper right corner with 3:04 left in double overtime. That lifted Hopkins to a 7-6 victory before 20,180 in the Inside Lacrosse Faceoff Classic at M&T; Bank Stadium.
It was the largest crowd to witness an NCAA regular-season game, and the Blue Jays and Tigers (1-1) gave the people some tense, well-played lacrosse.
The goalies put on a clinic, especially Hopkins senior Jesse Schwartzman. He recorded 17 saves, including seven in a tremendous second quarter. Hewit, the reigning NCAA Goalie of the Year, finished with 10 saves.
And while Princeton's matchup zone defense did all the sliding, switching and hustling necessary to frustrate Hopkins' midfield shooters - Rabil was an exception with two goals - the Blue Jays' attack and youth came to the fore. Freshman attackman Steven Boyle scored three goals. Freshman midfielder Michael Kimmel had three assists.
"I think our team grew up a little bit today," said Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala, whose Blue Jays rebounded from a season-opening 8-7 upset loss to Albany.
"Those two scenarios [before Rabil's game-winner] can kind of take the wind out of your sails a little bit. But the guys just said let's go get the next faceoff."
The Blue Jays, who didn't take their first lead until midway through the fourth quarter at 6-5, proceeded to control the opening faceoff in double overtime after Princeton kicked the ball out of bounds. Next, Rabil stepped up after getting a rare clear look at the cage.
"It was a scramble," said Rabil, who did not score against Albany. "It's almost like a loose ball and everyone has to check up. Fortunately, someone got confused. Steve got it, his head was up, I was open, and I got lucky."
Said Princeton coach Bill Tierney, lamenting the Tigers' 6-for-43 shooting: "It's difficult to lose a game in overtime any way. But usually when a ball hits a pipe, you get it back.
"It's discouraging when you work as hard as we do and you can't throw the ball in the goal. Both goalies were fabulous. Jesse crushed us in the second quarter. The only good thing about losing a game at M&T; Bank Stadium in March is you've still got a chance of coming back [in the final four]."
The Blue Jays were tenacious and opportunistic, after falling behind by two-goal deficits of 2-0 and 3-1, a lead Princeton took on a transition goal by midfielder Josh Lesko four minutes into the second quarter.
Then, Rabil finally got on the board in 2007. He ran by sophomore defenseman Chris Peyser and scored on a 12-yard runner from the right wing to make it 3-2 with 7:37 left in the half.
The teams were never separated by more than a goal after that. Hopkins finally took its first lead at 6-5 when junior attackman Michael Doneger scored the Blue Jays' second extra-man goal of the day with 8:55 left in the game.
Princeton sophomore midfielder Mark Kovler tied the game 6-6 with 7:05 to go.
Princeton 2 1 2 1 0 0 - 6
Johns Hopkins 0 3 2 1 0 1 - 7
Goals: P-Sowanick, Davis, Kovler, Trombino, Lesko, Biles. J-Boyle 3, Rabil 2, Huntley, Doneger. Assists: P-Davis, Schneider, Sowanick. J-Kimmel 3, Miller, Peyser. Saves: P-Hewit 10. J-Schwartzman 17.