Coming off back-to-back road victories against the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Tar Heels and the Princeton University Tigers, No. 18 Hopkins traveled to the Carrier Dome on Saturday to play the No. 13 Syracuse University Orange in a renewal of one of the game’s historic rivalries.
The Blue Jays came out of the gates flying, going up 5-1 only 12 minutes into the game with two goals coming from senior midfielder Alex Concannon. It looked to be a repeat of last year’s 18-7 drubbing of the Orange in the vaunted Carrier Dome. But, to Syracuse’s credit, the Orange fought back and cut the lead to 8-7 before halftime.
Hopkins maintained a one-goal advantage into the fourth quarter but was outscored 6-1 in the final frame and went on to lose 14-10. The Blue Jays dropped to 2-3 on the year after Saturday’s game.
For most of the day, Hopkins competed and held the Orange in check. When Syracuse tried to make its run, Hopkins responded. In the fourth quarter however, the Blue Jays ran out of counterpunches.
The greatly improved Hopkins face-off game was vital in the prior two wins and in the first quarter of the Syracuse game. Unfortunately, the team would like to forget the fourth quarter where Syracuse took six of eight and played “make-it, take-it” for the latter parts of the game.
The Hopkins offense, which showed great success last week against Princeton, sputtered in the second half and only put up two goals in the final 30 minutes. Turnovers and good goaltending kept the Blue Jays out, while Hopkins’ star attackmen, junior Cole Williams and senior Kyle Marr, could not get rolling for most of the day.
Freshman standout attackman Joey Epstein had a decent day in his first Hopkins-Syracuse rivalry game, scoring a highlight reel wrap-around, one-handed goal from the X.
Sophomore Ryan Darby has improved every week in his first season as a starter between the pipes. On Saturday, he went 56 percent with several saves at his door step. The defense, showing marked improvement, especially in the defensive midfield, kept the Blue Jays in front as long as it could, but the Syracuse barrage just kept coming.
I would be doing a disservice if I continue to ramble on about the Blue Jays’ loss without at least mentioning the huge steps forward Hopkins has made in the past two weeks. It was not long ago where Hopkins’ fans were befuddled by a season opening thrashing by Towson University followed up by a decent but not great showing against Loyola University Maryland. Little did we know, Towson would win its first five games and as of last week, would be ranked No. 1 in the Inside Lacrosse Media Poll. Meanwhile, Loyola had its own run at No.1 in the polls before Towson knocked off the Greyhounds a couple of weeks ago.
To their credit, the Blue Jays followed up two tough losses with two straight strong road wins. The past couple games could very easily have put Hopkins in serious trouble at 0-4. But, they didn’t. The Blue Jays were able to claw their way back to 0.500 in the mud of Chapel Hill and the cold of Princeton.
Yes, Hopkins lost on Saturday to another rival, but plenty of chances remain to boost their playoff résumé, with a game against University of Virginia in just over a week and the entire Big Ten schedule after that. The Blue Jays could have mailed it in weeks ago, but they didn’t. They fought, clawed their way out of the hole most media members tried to bury them in and are still competing for a playoff spot. For that, I give a tip of the cap.
On Tuesday, the Blue Jays handled their business and beat Mount St. Mary’s University 11-4 behind a strong outing for Darby in goal. Darby finished the night with 12 saves on 16 shots on goal.
Hopkins fell behind early in the first quarter giving up two quick goals but used a second quarter Mount penalty to pull away. The Blue Jay defense would then give up only one goal in the final two quarters of play. Epstein had a hat trick en route to a four-point day, including a highlight dodge in the second quarter that drew the flag that propelled the Blue Jays into a commanding lead.
Coming up for the Blue Jays, who are now ranked No. 17, are the University of Delaware Blue Hens on Saturday, March 16 and the No. 12 Virginia Cavaliers on Saturday, March 23. Both games are on Homewood Field.
Not to overlook the Blue Hens, but the high-flying offense of Virginia will pose a strong threat to a Hopkins defense that’s still trying to find its groove in the young season. Nonetheless, if you get a chance to stop by Homewood before or after your spring break, both games should be a treat to watch.