A late-season surge by the Johns Hopkins men's lacrosse team didn't lead to a second consecutive Big Ten Conference championship, but it did land the Blue Jays in the NCAA tournament.
No. 15 Hopkins (8-7) came up just short in the Big Ten tournament final on Saturday night, falling 18-17 in overtime against No. 1-ranked Penn State (14-1). But less than 24 hours later, JHU got new life when it was named to the 17-team NCAA tournament field. Hopkins will travel to South Bend, Indiana, to take on seventh-seeded Notre Dame on Sunday at 7:30 p.m. Complete NCAA men's lacrosse tournament bracket
Here's the moment Hopkins found out it was in.
Second Season starts now. pic.twitter.com/My9iurD7HD— JHU Men's Lacrosse (@jhumenslacrosse) May 6, 2019
Two weeks ago, after a 20-9 regular-season loss at Penn State on Easter Sunday, the Blue Jays were squarely on the NCAA tournament bubble—Hopkins was 6-6 and had lost two in a row heading into a season-ending matchup with then-No. 2 Maryland. But the Blue Jays rallied for a 16-11 win against the Terps, then came from behind to beat Maryland 12-7 in the conference semifinals five days later.
With their postseason prospects brightened, Hopkins headed into a rematch with the Nittany Lions on a roll, having hit stride at just the right time. The momentum carried over, as JHU built a 11-8 halftime lead against the nation's top-ranked team Saturday night in Piscataway, New Jersey.
But Penn State came out of the locker room hot, scoring five straight goals to grab a lead it would not relinquish. Hopkins stayed within striking distance and got two scores in the final 34 seconds from first-year attackman Joey Epstein to knot the score at 17. The Blue Jays then won the ensuing faceoff and had a chance to win on the break, but Matt Hubler's shot was stopped by goalkeeper Colby Kneese to force overtime.
There, Penn State controlled the opening faceoff in overtime and worked the ball to TJ Malone, who curled around from behind the goal and got top side before skipping a pass to Mac O'Keefe, who buried the game-winning goal inside the far post. The goal was O'Keefe's sixth of the game.
Epstein put on his own scoring show for Hopkins, netting seven goals to go with two assists. His seven goals are the most by a Johns Hopkins player in a single game since Ryan Brown had eight in a 15-12 win at Maryland on April 25, 2015, while his nine points are the most by a Blue Jay since Kyle Marr had nine against Michigan on April 23, 2017.
Forry Smith added three goals and one assist, and Cole Williams chipped in two goals and an assist for the Blue Jays, who had 10 players register multi-point games. Freshman Matt Nareweski won 16-of-29 faceoffs and grabbed eight ground balls for Hopkins, which went 6-for-6 on extra-man and held a 47-39 advantage in shots. Complete box score