No. 2 Virginia is not yet built to blow away quality, Division I men's lacrosse teams, as the Cavaliers often did a year ago while rolling to an undefeated season and a national championship.
But, as third-ranked Johns Hopkins learned yesterday while suffering a 7-5 setback before 4,784 at Homewood Field, the Cavaliers still know how to play defense, pounce on their opponents' mistakes and patch together enough goals with a creative, hard-riding attack unit.
Virginia (7-1) won its seventh straight game with a little bit of its trademark transition game, a lot of junior attackman Ben Rubeor and a sprinkling of strange scoring sequences that were products of its overall hustle.
Rubeor (Loyola) scored a game-high three goals and added an assist. His last goal, with six seconds left in the third quarter, came after Hopkins goalie Jesse Schwartzman vacated the net, then failed to secure the ball about 10 yards to the right of the cage before attackman Garrett Billings grabbed it and flipped to Rubeor on the crease.
That empty-net score gave the Cavaliers a 7-2 lead, and it was that kind of day for the Blue Jays, who barely mustered an offense in the first three quarters.
Hopkins surrendered another empty-net goal with 4:44 left in the third, after both teams traded turnovers in front of the Blue Jays goal and freshman midfielder Brian Carroll emerged from the scrum to take another feed from Billings and make it 6-2.
"There were just critical moments, and I think Virginia did a good job capitalizing on critical moments," said Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala, whose Blue Jays (4-2) had their four-game winning streak halted.
"When you look at the way they scored those goals, that's the hardest part.
If you told me we'd hold Virginia to seven goals, I'd say we win. They did a good job of keeping us out of our offensive rhythm. Our stickwork at times was poor."
One week after scoring a season-high 17 goals at Syracuse, the Hopkins offense hit the wall with its lowest output of the year, and the Blue Jays needed a 3-0 fourth-quarter run from midfielders Michael Kimmel, Stephen Peyser and Paul Rabil (two goals) to make the game interesting.
Freshman attackman Steven Boyle, the team's leading scorer, had his first goal-less outing, thanks largely to the presence of Virginia sophomore defenseman Matt Kelly.
Early on, Hopkins couldn't keep the ball -- mixing in unforced turnovers and coughing it up to Virginia's chasing, trail-checking defenders -- or shoot it without missing the cage or finding Virginia senior goalie Kip Turner.
After Blue Jays senior attackman Jake Byrne opened the scoring nearly four minutes in, the Cavaliers scored four straight, while outshooting the Blue Jays 13-3 in the first quarter.
Sophomore attackman Danny Glading scored the first two. Rubeor followed with two more, including one that resulted from a lob pass inside to midfielder Steve Giannone that skipped awkwardly past Schwartzman (14 saves).
Rabil cut the lead to 4-2 with 5:30 left in the half on a 14-yard runner, but the Cavaliers made the Blue Jays pay with their only transition goal of the day, by defensive midfielder Will Barrow.
It started when Turner (seven saves) stuffed Peyser with a kick save in close. It ended with Rubeor feeding Barrow, who finished the break from about seven yards out.
Virginia 4 1 2 0 -- 7
Johns Hopkins 1 1 0 3 -- 5
Goals: V--Rubeor 3, Glading 2, Carroll, Barrow; JH--Rabil 2, Peyser, Kimmel, Byrne. Assists: V--Billings 3, Rubeor; JH-- Boyle, Peyser. Saves: V--Turner 7. JH--Schwartzman 14.