If Johns Hopkins coach Janine Tucker had any concerns that her team would suffer a letdown after last week's upset of then-No. 15 Virginia, she learned early against UMBC on Wednesday she needn't have worried.
Hopkins looked every bit the national women's lacrosse power, holding the host Retrievers scoreless for the first 24:34 and building an early five-goal lead before cruising to an 11-5 win at UMBC Stadium.
It could've been a trap game, with No. 6 Penn State coming to town Sunday for a critical conference contest. The Blue Jays instead excelled, outshooting the Retrievers 26-13. It was a far cry from a year ago, when UMBC stunned Hopkins with a late rally in a 7-6 win, the Retrievers' first victory in the series since 1999.
"We had to come in today thinking of this as like a playoff game," Blue Jays junior Sarah Taylor said. "In order to continue our season, we have to keep winning. The fact that we lost to them last year, we all came in here wanting to prove a point and prove we're the better team."
Taylor had four goals and an assist, Taylor D'Amore five assists and freshman Dene' DiMartino three goals as Hopkins (9-5) recorded its first back-to-back wins in nearly a month.
The Retrievers (8-6), meanwhile, have lost three straight for the first time since 2010. They hurt their own cause by making just one of six free-position shots, though co-coach Tony Giro said his team's 37 fouls were just as big a factor.
"You can't put a team like [Hopkins] that shoots that well on the 8 meters. You can't put them on the hashes," said Giro, who was ejected for arguing a call 27 seconds into the second half. "We talked about that all week — you've got to stay in front of them and do not foul."
Hopkins controlled play from the outset, taking an early 2-0 lead on back-to-back goals by DiMartino and Taylor over a span of 1:05. The Retrievers, meanwhile, missed a chance to keep things close by misfiring on a pair of free positions.
UMBC's methodical offense could muster little else against the more athletic Blue Jays, who dominated time of possession.
Hopkins scored three more goals — all assisted by D'Amore — to build a 5-0 lead before the Retrievers finally got on the board on Shannon Harkey's fastbreak 5:26 before halftime.
Trailing 8-2, the Retrievers began to make their move, getting consecutive goals in a span of 36 seconds by sophomore Alyssa Semones (Westminster) and freshman Kayley Jones (Mount de Sales). Jones led UMBC with her first three goals of the season.
That was as close as UMBC would get; it failed to convert two more free positions before Hopkins extended the lead on an extra-man goal by Taylor.
"We knew that we were going to have to fight going in, and I think the girls were prepared for that and I think they kept their composure throughout the whole game," Tucker said. "I felt we made good decisions. We scrapped when we needed to get the ball back."
The Blue Jays now have a chance to significantly improve their seeding in the American Lacrosse Conference tournament with games against Penn State and Ohio State to close out the regular season.
With Hopkins 1-2 in the ALC, a strong finish could pay huge dividends when it comes to the postseason picture.
"I think we have to focus on doing the little things and not think too big-picture," Tucker said. "That would be too overwhelming in what we have to try to accomplish."
Goals: JHU—Taylor 4; DiMartino 3; Cermack 2; Cook; Reifler; UMBC—Jones 3, Harkey, Semones.
Assists: JHU—D'Amore 5; Cermack; Taylor; Turco; UMBC—Semones.
Saves: JHU—Larash 5; UMBC—Mason 7.