Twenty-two days ago, the Johns Hopkins men's lacrosse team strolled into the Carrier Dome and tore through Syracuse with a 17-goal outburst.
The Blue Jays haven't felt well since. After yesterday's 11-9 loss to visiting, No. 4 Duke, before 4,802 chilly spectators at Homewood Field, seventh-ranked Hopkins still is searching for its next victory.
Duke attackmen Zack Greer and Matt Danowski, perhaps the best one-two scoring punch in Division I, were the main culprits in another frustrating outing for the Blue Jays.
Greer, a Canadian junior, kept getting open around the crease and carved up the Hopkins man-to-man and matchup zone sets with a game-high six goals. Danowski, a senior Player of the Year candidate who was hounded by sophomore defenseman Michael Evans, used great dodging and passing to get four assists, all on goals by Greer.
For the 4-4 Blue Jays, who have lost three home games for the first time since 1996 and three straight for the first time since a four-game slide in 1990, it was another day rife with costly holes in their game.
It started with their inability to cover Greer.
"We pressed Danowski. The goal was to put the ball in other people's sticks. We did not do a good enough job accounting for [Greer]," said Blue Jays coach Dave Pietramala, who had not lost two in a row at Hopkins before last week's 13-10 defeat at North Carolina.
"You make your own breaks, and right now, we've got to start making a few more. We played well enough to win this game. Five minutes turned this game around."
That would be the opening stretch of the second half. Hopkins turned the ball over twice, after winning faceoffs. Duke (9-2) used a six-on-six goal by defenseman Casey Carroll, a score by attackman Gibbs Fogarty off a loose ball and a 10-yard strike by Greer - thanks to a crisp, cross-field pass from Danowski - to take a 9-5 lead with 12:33 left in the third quarter.
After Danowski ran by several defenders then fed Greer for an easy score inside to make it 10-6 with 5:47 left in the third, the Blue Jays never got closer than two goals.
It was always something with Hopkins. The Blue Jays got beat on critical ground balls. They whiffed on three extra-man chances and committed four turnovers in that pivotal third quarter. Senior goalie Jesse Schwartzman had 12 saves, but only two in the second half. Junior midfielder Paul Rabil, a first-team All-American who had a goal and two assists, was barely a factor.
Senior midfielder Stephen Peyser (two goals and two assists) showed signs of breaking out of his shooting slump, but junior attackman Kevin Huntley's woes continued. A year after scoring 30 goals, Huntley has six after shooting 1-for-10 yesterday. He took turns hitting pipes, hitting Duke goalie Dan Loftus and missing the cage by inches.
"It's something I've got to fix," Huntley said. "Maybe I was trying to be too perfect with some of my shots. I wouldn't say I've lost confidence in myself quite yet."
If they intend to make their 36th NCAA tournament and do it as a seeded team, the Blue Jays need to get well soon. They visit No. 10 Maryland on Saturday.
Duke, meanwhile, looked like a top four seed with its combination of speed and hustle between the boxes, discipline and toughness on defense, and, of course, those two huge weapons at the offensive end.
The Blue Devils, who had not faced the Blue Jays since dropping a 9-8 decision to them in the NCAA title game in 2005, beat the Blue Jays for only the third time in 13 tries and the first time since 1997.
"[The Blue Jays] kind of have this aura about them. They come out with confidence," Danowski said. "We kind of broke that down today. [We know] they can be beaten."
Duke 3 3 4 1 - 11
Hopkins 2 3 2 2 - 9
Goals: D - Greer 6, Danowski, Ross, Quinzani, Carroll, Fogarty; JH - Peyser 2, Boyle 2, Rabil, Koesterer, Huntley, Kimmel, Bocklet; Assists: D - Danowski 4, Crotty, Greer, McKee; JH - Peyser 2, Rabil 2, Koesterer. Saves: D - Loftus 13; JH - Schwartzman 12.