It should come as little surprise that No. 13 Vanderbilt seemed right at home in Sunday's women's lacrosse game against host Johns Hopkins.
Fielding 13 players from Maryland, including 10 from the Baltimore area, the Commodores boasted more local talent than the Blue Jays and brought a large and vocal contingent to Homewood Field to drive the point home.
In the end, they had plenty to cheer about. Vanderbilt rallied by opening the second half with seven of nine goals, taking the lead for good on a pair of unassisted scores by senior Katherine Denkler to hand Hopkins a 14-13 loss.
"This is the field where you're like, 'Yeah, I've finally made it in my career,'" said Vanderbilt junior Courtney Kirk, a 2008 All-City attacker out of Roland Park. "We were just so excited stepping onto the field, and we couldn't wait for [the start of the game]. The intensity was there from the first draw."
Despite five goals by Blue Jays junior Candace Rossi, tying a career high, it was Vanderbilt's ability to control draws in the second half that ultimately made the difference. Led by junior Ally Carey (John Carroll), the Commodores won nine of 12 draws after halftime, keeping the ball out of the Blue Jays' hands.
"Draw controls were huge," Hopkins coach Janine Tucker said. "They went on a couple runs that we really needed to stop. … We needed to buckle down, and we didn't do as well as we needed to."
Hopkins pulled within one on Katie Duffy's unassisted goal with 4:33 left and had a chance to tie in the final two minutes after sophomore Sammi Arbitman forced a turnover at the defensive end. Ultimately, however, the Blue Jays turned the ball back over on a foul and Vanderbilt ran out the clock to seal its sixth straight win in the series.
"I think their speed and power caught us off guard a little bit. I think we did a better job in the second half trying to slow [Rossi] down," said Commodores coach Cathy Swezey, who said many of her players had looked forward to the chance to play in Baltimore for the only time this regular season. "This is a homecoming for a lot of our girls. We have a lot of Baltimore-area kids."
Kirk led Vanderbilt with three goals and two assists, and Emily Franke (Towson High) and Denkler added three goals each.
For much of the way, however, Hopkins was in control.
Trailing 3-1, The Blue Jays scored seven of the next eight goals and held Vanderbilt to one score in a span of nearly 20 minutes. Rossi scored three during the stretch, twice giving her team the lead on unassisted efforts.
By the time Sarah Taylor scored off a feed from fellow freshman Taylor D'Amore with 7:15 left in the half, Hopkins had extended its lead to 8-4.
Once Vanderbilt began dominating draw controls, however, the Commodores quickly turned the tide.
Despite the loss, Tucker said, the game was a strong showcase for Hopkins, which received votes in the latest IWLCA coaches' poll but couldn't crack the top 20.
"We're proving we can play with anybody in the country," Tucker said. "We're going to build on that."