BALTIMORE --- There was only a mild din throughout the night at blustery Homewood Field, the only thing potent enough to drown out conversations among the crowd of 1,318 the howling wind.
It abated toward the end of Johns Hopkins' 13-6 blowout of Towson, and the sentiment of the Blue Jays --- and their supporters --- was evident.
"We're alive," a Hopkins fan bellowed as time expired. "We're still alive."
That they are.
The Blue Jays (6-7) entered in dire need of a victory merely to keep their NCAA tournament hopes alive. Considering Hopkins reached the last 38 postseasons, the threat of a playoff with the Blue Jays carries greater significance than even a Syracuse or Princeton or Virginia stumbling through the abyss for a spring.
The Homewood press box was more packed than usual for a midweek game, a fact Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala wryly observed when reporters approached afterward.
The interview probably could have started an hour earlier. The Blue Jays, who blew a 4-1 lead to Maryland and fell to Navy despite being spotted five goals, were up 8-0 at the half. For once, Hopkins looked like ... well, Hopkins.
"I said that no matter what happens this season, I just want to see what our team is capable of," said senior midfielder Michael Kimmel (three goals, two assist). "Whether we make the playoffs, and obviously I'll be devastated if we don't, but I wanted to see what this team was capable of. ... We haven't been able to kind of put our foot down and step on their throiat and have that killer instinct. Being up 8-0 was good to see."
Hopkins' failures this season are well-chronicled, and it reversed most of its big-game problems against the No. 11 Tigers (6-6). They scored a couple extra-man goals. The man-down defense was 1-for-6. Goalie Pierce Bassett made a dozen saves.
And while the Blue Jays didn't hold a faceoff edge, they did capture the groundball battle 28-19. This after investing the first half of a two-hour practice scrambling after loose balls in every situation imaginable.
"The only thing that I'm happier [about] than winning the groundballs is that we won the game," Pietramala said. "The biggest thing tonight was simple. We had to win the groundballs. Let me tell you something, if we didn't win the groundballs tonight, I'm going to be jumping off a building. We've spent the last three weeks talking about groundballs and it's killed us the last two games."
As unusual as it is for a spectator to see Hopkins destroy itself because of poor fundamental and effort plays, it is just as infuriating to Pietramala.
The losing --- the most since his first season as a head coach at Cornell in 1998 --- wore on Pietramala enough. The manner of the losses somehow made it worse.
It was all crystallized Saturday against Navy, when the Midshipmen held a 35-21 groundball edge in a game Hopkins always wins.
Well, except this year --- something not hammered home until the 9-8 overtime loss was over.
"I think we kind of took that for granted going into the Navy game, kind of assuming 'Well, we always get out of this jam,'" Kimmel said. "Since I've been here, we've never lost one to Maryland, and then we lost one to Maryland. We always beat Navy, and we lost to Navy. Guys are finally understanding if we lose, it's not like we're 7-5. We're not making the playoffs if we lose another game."
That's still the case. One game --- a May 8 trip up University Parkway and Roland Avenue and then over a mile on Cold Spring Lane --- stands between the Blue Jays and a very un-Hopkinslike .500 record.
Hopkins will practice plenty. Pietramala will fly to Denver to scout the Greyhounds in person this weekend.
And hope, however dim it seemed just a couple days ago, continues to flicker for the sport's ultimate blueblood after pummeling Towson for the 15th straight time.
"All it means we have another chance to play for something other than pride, and we have a chance to play for something next Saturday," Pietramala said. "I truly believe we are playing for something. If we do have the good fortune of winning it, I think we have every right to expect to be considered. Do I think we'll get in? I have no idea. But we'd have two things a lot of people don't have, and that's two top-10 RPI wins."
They're still alive, and tonight simply showed the Hopkins funeral some fans might eagerly anticipate won't come easily.