No. 10 Johns Hopkins allowed a three-goal advantage in the second quarter to slip through its fingers as No. 6 North Carolina scored eight of the second half's 10 goals to finish off a 13-9 victory at Homewood Field.
The loss was the third in a row for the Blue Jays, who missed the NCAA tournament last season for the first time since 1971. They host a pair of ranked teams in No. 12 Albany and No. 7 Maryland the next two weeks.
A consistent rain Saturday — heavy at times — pelted both teams and an announced 1,857, who watched junior attackman Joey Sankey provide the fireworks for the Tar Heels (8-2).
Sankey scored a career-high five goals and tied a career best with seven points. The smallest player on the field at 5 feet 5 and 150 pounds, Sankey recorded three goals and one assist in the pivotal second half.
Johns Hopkins sophomore midfielder Holden Cattoni scored three goals, and junior attackman Wells Stanwick (Boys' Latin) posted three points on one goal and two assists. But the Blue Jays (5-3) were held to three goals under their season average and failed to score 10 goals in a game for the first time this year.
"Thought it was a tale of two halves," coach Dave Pietramala said. "I thought we played well in the first half. Not perfect by any sense of the imagination, but well enough to develop a lead. I thought we were aggressive. … In the second half, we're fighting a battle right now that we can't get out of our own way. It's just too many mistakes, and it's no one guy. It's a team thing. But we're just making too many errors, and we're making them at critical times. When you do that against a good team, you can't expect a positive outcome."
Hopkins' futility on offense was best exemplified by a goal-less drought of 22:30 that began in the second quarter and ended in the final period when sophomore attackman Ryan Brown converted a pass from sophomore midfielder Connor Reed.
"I think a little bit of it was us," Stanwick said. "We didn't finish the chances that we had. I felt like we had some chances we should have cashed in on, and it didn't work out for us."
Brown, who had entered the contest ranked second in Division I in goals per game at 3.7 and fifth in points per game at 5.0, was limited to one goal and two points. The Sykesville native and Calvert Hall graduate was blanketed by North Carolina freshman defenseman Austin Pifani.
"I think overall, the team defense is the key," Tar Heels coach Joe Breschi said. "I don't think it's stopping one guy. It's recognizing matchups, and we certainly responded and reacted better in the second half. But Brown's a terrific player. They've got a lot of talent on that team, for sure."
After both sides battled to a 4-4 tie early in the second quarter, Johns Hopkins ran off three consecutive goals over a 4:48 span. Cattoni scored off a sprint down the left alley with 10:15 remaining, Stanwick found senior attackman Brandon Benn alone on the left wing 38 seconds later, and the Stanwick-to-Benn connection worked again with 5:27 left in the quarter.
But that would be the last time the offense scored until Brown's goal 1:53 into the fourth period, and North Carolina responded with six straight goals over that stretch to seize a 10-7 lead.
North Carolina senior short-stick defensive midfielder Ryan Creighton said the defense did not panic after the second quarter.
"We just stuck to the game plan," said Creighton, who scored once, caused one turnover and picked up two ground balls. "We were a little undisciplined in the beginning. … I think our communication might have stepped up a little bit in the second half. We just stayed within the scheme. Nobody tried to do too much."
Similarly, Sankey said the offense wasn't worried about finding its rhythm in the second half.
"We were confident," he said. "We talked about it at the half. I think we were 5-for-13 in possessions in the first half. We knew that if we had the ball, we felt good about our chances if we just run the offense, and that's what we did in the second half."