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Mike Preston

Mike Preston: Johns Hopkins men’s lacrosse win over Syracuse in Dave Pietramala’s return shows traditional powers have work to do | COMMENTARY

It was an exciting game with a great ending, but it showed how much the top two traditional powers in men’s college lacrosse have fallen off in recent years.

Regardless of the 35 turnovers and sloppy play, Johns Hopkins scored two goals in the final 2:21 to secure a 10-7 win against No. 17 Syracuse before an announced 2,288 at Homewood Field on Sunday.

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Neither team could gain more than a two-goal advantage for most of the game, and it seemed as if that trend would continue when Syracuse midfielder Tucker Dordevic (three goals) scored down the right ally with 5:53 left to pull the Orange within one, 8-7, to break a nearly 17-minute scoreless streak by Syracuse (2-4).

But Blue Jays midfielder Jacob Angelus, on a feed from attackman Joey Epstein, ripped a 12-foot sidearm shot for a goal with 2:21 left. Epstein then outmaneuvered goalie Harrison Thompson, who left the net to try and force a turnover, and scored an empty-netter with 54 second left.

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“It’s massive,” said Blue Jays midfielder Johnathan Peshko, who finished with three goals. “This is special, something that has been going on for a long time involving these two teams. We’re only like halfway through the season so this was good for us because we have to power forward, put our best foot forward heading into conference play.

“It was a hard-fought game, everyone was working hard, and we did what we had to do.”

Syracuse vs. Hopkins is one of the greatest rivalries in the sport, as the schools have combined for 20 NCAA championships and more than 1,900 wins. But both programs are in a rebuilding mode, with Hopkins under second-year coach Peter Milliman and Syracuse being led by first-year coach Gary Gait, a former Orange midfielder and possibly the game’s greatest player.

Sunday’s game also had a special attraction because it marked the return of Dave Pietramala, the current Orange defensive coordinator who was the Blue Jays head coach for 20 years until he was replaced by Milliman.

Under Pietramala, the Blue Jays had a 207-93 record, made 18 NCAA tournament appearances and won national championships in 2005 and 2007. Pietramala specialized in building defenses, but he was done in by the Blue Jays’ defense Sunday as the Orange couldn’t counter Hopkins’ aggressive slides from the crease.

The Orange didn’t help themselves either by hitting the post eight times while outshooting Hopkins 54-29.

“We tried not to talk much about him [Pietramala’s return] during the week, but it was hard not to recognize him and what he has done for the program,” Peshko said. “I just gave him a big hug after the game and wished him the best.”

Hopkins (4-3) has its own problems to work out. The Blue Jays had trouble clearing the ball, converting 17 of 25 attempts, which showed their lack of speed at midfield. Hopkins also committed 21 turnovers, seven more than Syracuse, but the Blue Jays never lost their poise.

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That happens when your goalie is Josh Kirson, who finished with 14 saves.

“You know they are going to get their shots, but it will turn, the ball will come back our way because we have Josh in goal,” Peshko said.

Keough finished with two goals and Epstein had two goals and three assists.

Hopkins took the first two-goal lead of the game, 7-5, when Peshko scored on a feed from Epstein with 8:38 remaining in the third quarter. But Orange midfielder Brendan Curry scored after two penalties on the Blue Jays to pull within one. Degnon, off a feed from Keough, scored on a shot down the middle to lift the Blue Jays to an 8-6 lead entering the fourth quarter.

Syracuse dominated the first half, but the Orange couldn’t gain more than a one-goal advantage even though it outshot the Blue Jays 27-14. Syracuse was successful with its ride, using a 3-3 that forced several Blue Jays turnovers. But the Orange also hit the pipe on seven shots, and Kirson had nine saves after two quarters.

At one point in the second quarter, the Blue Jays didn’t take a shot until Keough scored with 7:34 left in the half to tie the score at 3. Orange midfielder Lucas Quinn scored on a long shot from straight on to put Syracuse ahead, 4-3, with 3:52 left. Just six seconds later, after a faceoff violation, Epstein threw a cross-zone pass to Degnon, who tied the game at 4 entering halftime.

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The second quarter was basically a repeat of the first. The Blue Jays were more competitive in the opening period, as they were only outshot 11-10 and equaled the Orange with nine ground balls, but Hopkins committed four turnovers in the first nine minutes.

The Orange went ahead, 2-1, on goals from attackman Mikey Bergman and Dordevic midway through the first quarter, but Peshko beat long-stick midfielder Brett Barlow on an inside roll to the left of the goal to tie the game at 2 with 3:09 remaining.

NAVY@JOHNS HOPKINS

Friday, 7 p.m.

TV: ESPNU (re-air Saturday at 9 a.m.)

Radio: 1430 AM, 99.9 FM


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