The men’s lacrosse team wrapped up its non-Conference schedule with home matchups on consecutive Saturdays against the University of Delaware Fightin’ Blue Hens and the University of Virginia (UVA) Cavaliers. The previous Tuesday, the Jays recorded their most convincing victory over the season thus far, with an 11-4 triumph over Mount St. Mary’s University. It was critical for the team to build on this momentum over its next two games.
The Blue Jays entered their game against the unranked Fightin’ Blue Hens as the No. 17 team in the country. They opened up the scoring on their home turf less than a minute in on an unassisted goal from junior attackman Cole Williams. The teams went back and forth on their first four goals, putting the score at 2-2. Hopkins then opened up a 6-2 lead with a 4-0 offensive run. By halftime, Delaware had marginally cut into the Jays’ lead, but Hopkins still led 7-4.
Early in the third quarter, the Fightin’ Blue Hens narrowed their deficit to one with two unanswered goals. The two teams then traded off one goal apiece, allowing Hopkins to maintain its one-goal lead heading into the fourth quarter. Delaware’s offense erupted early in the final period, as the Fightin’ Blue Hens scored three unanswered goals to take a 10-8 lead with just over eight and a half minutes remaining. However, the Jays did not fold under pressure; instead, they went on their own one-sided attack and scored the final four goals of the game. Senior attackman Kyle Marr scored two of the goals, while senior midfielder Alex Concannon and junior attackman Forry Smith netted one goal apiece. Hopkins escaped with a narrow 12-10 victory and improved to 4-3 on the season.
Delaware senior Joe Eisele led the game with four goals. For the Jays, Marr found the back of the net on a team-high three instances, while Williams and freshman attackman Joey Epstein were right behind him with two goals each. Williams and the Jays’ sophomore midfielder Connor DeSimone led all players with three assists each. In goal, sophomore Ryan Darby saved 11 of 21 shots for the Jays. Additionally, Hopkins had a major advantage on face-offs, winning 20 of its 26 opportunities.
The following Saturday, the Jays, now ranked 15th in the country, hosted the ninth-ranked Virginia. The game was tightly contested through the first three quarters, as has been the trend historically between these two teams. In fact, neither team had won this annual rivalry matchup by more than two goals since 2013, and four of those five games had been decided by one goal. Hopkins led 4-3 at the end of the first quarter, and the score was knotted at six at the half. UVA opened up a 12-9 lead in the third quarter, but the three-goal deficit certainly seemed surmountable for the Jays. Hopkins had proven its resilience in its last two matchups with the Cavaliers, overcoming six and seven-goal deficits in its victories in 2017 and 2018, respectively.
However, this time around, the Jays were unable to shift the momentum in their favor, as UVA scored the first two goals of the fourth quarter to extend its lead to 14-9. Each team scored an additional two goals, and the Cavaliers’ five-goal margin held as the clock struck zero. UVA ultimately won by a score of 16-11. After the game, Hopkins head coach Dave Pietramala discussed the team’s struggles in the second half.
“In the third quarter you give up six goals, and in the fourth quarter you fail to clear three times, you lose face-offs... you know you’re not giving yourself a chance to get back in the game,” Pietramala said.
Despite the loss, Epstein had arguably the best game of his young career. He scored a season-high five goals in the game and was rewarded for his performance with his second Big Ten Freshman of the Week honor. Marr and freshman midfielder Evan Zinn each added two goals, while Williams led the way with two assists. In addition, Darby saved 12 of 28 shots in goal.
With regard to the Jays’ face-off conversion rate, the team won 17 of its 30 opportunities. While this 56.7 percent mark is greater than 50 percent, it is nowhere near as good as the 76.9 percent mark from the Delaware game and represents one of the key statistics to which the losing effort can be attributed. Moving forward, staying focused and poised in the second half of games will definitely be a point of focus for the Jays.
Pietramala explained that the team’s second half performances are leaving a lot to be desired.
“This is something that we’ve gotta fix. Our lapses in the third quarter and parts of the fourth are really hurting us,” Pietramala said. “Part of it is we’ve just got to be more fundamentally sound.”
For Hopkins, the non-Conference schedule may now be in the rear-view mirror, but the stiff competition isn’t going anywhere. The Jays’ Big Ten schedule will prove challenging, but it will be a tremendous test of their resilience. By the end of this upcoming five-game stretch — as well as a potential Conference Tournament appearance — Hopkins will have had ample opportunities to show what it is really made of. The Jays open up their Big Ten slate with a road matchup against the University of Michigan Wolverines on Saturday. The game will begin at 3 p.m.