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Blue day for Blue Jays

The Baltimore Sun

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Johns Hopkins was tested by an opponent that played the Blue Jays' style of lacrosse. And Johns Hopkins didn't pass the test.

An overpowering midfield, a suffocating defense and a fast start in the third quarter - hallmarks of the Blue Jays - defined Syracuse's 13-10 defeat of Johns Hopkins in the NCAA Division I tournament final before an NCAA championship game-record crowd of 48,970 at Gillette Stadium yesterday.

The No. 3 seed Orange (16-2) captured its ninth NCAA title, tying the No. 5 seed Blue Jays (11-6) as the most successful programs in history. The NCAA forced Syracuse to vacate the championship it won in 1990 because of violations.

Johns Hopkins' first loss in nine games ended its bid for two straight championships and three titles in four years.

In the end, Blue Jays coach Dave Pietramala's worst fears were realized.

A midfield that runs two lines with almost equal playing time scored eight of Syracuse's goals and recorded 11 of the team's 14 points. Junior Dan Hardy scored a team-high three goals, senior Brendan Loftus added two goals and senior Steven Brooks chipped in with a goal and two assists.

"They're outstanding. We're used to seeing that though," Pietramala said. "We see that every day in our practices. We see 6-foot-4 [and 6-2 and 6-3] guys that are 190, 200, 210 pounds on a daily basis, and we should've done a better job."

The Blue Jays also ran into a defense that displayed the kind of tenacity and aggressiveness that tends to characterize the Johns Hopkins unit.

After giving up four goals in the first quarter, the Orange surrendered just one in the second quarter and twice held Hopkins scoreless for more than 10 minutes, enabling Syracuse to take a lead it didn't relinquish.

"I think they were pushing out a little bit, and they made some problems for us," said Hopkins sophomore attackman Steven Boyle, who was limited to one goal. "They were on top of their game. I think we just made some mistakes that hurt us."

Johns Hopkins was hurt by a third quarter during which the Orange scored four of the period's seven goals - including the first two on its first two shots of the second half, spanning just 58 seconds, to give Syracuse an 8-5 lead 1:19 into the quarter.

The Blue Jays had outscored their opponents 30-10 in the third quarter during their eight-game winning streak.

The loss tempered the scintillating performance of Johns Hopkins senior midfielder Paul Rabil, who nearly carried the team back into contention by recording a game-high seven points on six goals - the second most in a championship game - and an assist.

Five of Rabil's goals came from long range, and the other was a testament to his hustle when he dislodged the ball from freshman long-stick midfielder Joel White's stick, collected the ground ball and wove his way to the high slot, where he beat freshman goalkeeper John Galloway (seven saves).

"I was just getting shots that I normally take in practice and shots that I practice on my own," said Rabil, who overtook Del Dressel as the school's top-scoring midfielder with 178 career points. "I was able to make them count."

Besides Rabil, Kevin Huntley (Calvert Hall) was the only other Blue Jays player with more than one point. The senior attackman had two goals and an assist.

Sophomore goalie Michael Gvozden (Severna Park) also had a stellar day, making 20 saves - the most in a title game since Maryland's Brian Dougherty turned away a record 23 shots in a 13-9 loss to Syracuse in 1995.

Yesterday's victory gave Orange coach John Desko his fourth national crown since 2000 and helped the program complete a remarkable reversal from last season, when the Orange went 5-8 and missed the tournament for the first time since 1982.

"You could sense it at halftime [that] they didn't want to be denied," said Desko, who is two championships away from catching former Syracuse coach Roy Simmons Jr. and Princeton coach Bill Tierney for most NCAA titles. "They bought into all the changes we made this year and worked so hard. It was great to see them have success."

Johns Hopkins 4 1 3 2 - 10

Syracuse 2 4 4 3 - 13

Goals: JH-Rabil 6, Huntley 2, Boyle, Wharton; S-Hardy 3, Loftus 2, Nims 2, Keogh 2, Leveille, Brooks, Perritt, Brennan. Assists: JH-Castle, Huntley, Kimmel, Peyser, Rabil; S-Brooks 2, Leveille 2, Niewieroski, White. Saves: JH- Gvozden 20; S-Galloway 7.

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