The 2005 Johns Hopkins men’s lacrosse team was one of the greatest college lacrosse squads of recent history. With a legendary coach, two of the best midfielders to ever play the game, one of whom was a freshman who burst onto the scene, and one of the most experienced senior classes in school history, it wasn’t surprising to see the Blue Jays celebrate their eighth title in program history on Memorial Day 2005.
Let’s take a look back at the team’s perfect 16-0 2005 season.
2005 Hopkins Makes History
After their semifinal loss to eventual champion Syracuse in 2004, the Blue jays were hungry to get over the hump and win their first national championship since 1987. Hopkins returned eight players from the 2004 team and was ranked No. 1 in the country in the preseason poll.
Hopkins started the season off with a huge win over No. 3 Princeton, a contest that contained freshman Paul Rabil’s first career goal. Toppling top teams was a theme for the 2005 Blue Jays – they beat six teams ranked in the top 12 during the regular season.
Johns Hopkins ended the regular season at 12-0 with three All-Americans (Rabil, Tom Garvey, and Kyle Harrison, who also won the Tewaaraton) and three more Honorable Mentions (Jake Byrne, Matt Pinto, and Jesse Schwartzman). A perfect record and all the individual accolades were impressive, but head coach Dave Pietramala knew there was still work to be done.
“Our goal, as always, is to compete for the national championship,” he said in 2005. “The seniors on any team feel a sense of urgency, because it’s their last season, and we feel like we certainly have a special group of seniors who have been working towards this season since they were freshmen.”
That group of seniors entered the tournament as the No. 1 seed for the fourth-consecutive, aiming for a different outcome this time around.
First, Hopkins easily disposed of Marist and UMass, setting up a rematch of the 2003 national championship against Virginia. The Blue Jays led for most of the game but squandered a 6-3 lead in the fourth quarter. It took some late heroics from Hopkins just to force overtime, where Benson Erwin scored the OT winner and helped the Blue Jays advance to the national title game.
Johns Hopkins entered the national championship game on a mission.
“[We] will not have a letdown,” Pietramala told play-by-play announcer Dave Ryan before the game.
The Blue Jays were ready to get over the hump and win their first title in almost 20 years, but after losing to Hopkins in double overtime earlier in the year, Duke was seeking revenge.
The rematch in the national championship went back and forth, and the Blue Devils led by two midway through the third quarter. But Hopkins held Duke scoreless for the final 27:43 and went on a 3-0 run to end the contest, achieving a 9-8 victory to complete an undefeated season and clinch the ultimate prize. The win solidified 2005 Johns Hopkins as the 11th team in NCAA Division I men’s lacrosse history to finish a campaign unblemished as national champions and remain one of 12 teams to ever achieve the feat.
“Our kids have a lot of heart,” Pietramala said after the game. “I’m so proud and happy for these kids.
Hopkins finally got the monkey off its back, and it was evident in the post-game celebration. Kyle Harrison was seen hoisting the trophy and full of emotion.
“Harrison, who has taken the program on his shoulders for the past four years, has taken so much heat and criticism and the pressure,” Quint Kessenich acknowledged after the contest, “and he gets to smile right now.”
It was a historic ending for one of the greatest team in Johns Hopkins history and a season that remains one of the greatest in college lacrosse history.