It’s not hardware — not a banner, a trophy or a ring that lasts forever. But, in Johns Hopkins lacrosse, a banana with your number on it means something.

The Blue Jay Bananas, a club of extreme fans, give out bananas every game, highlighting star performers of their own choosing — a decadeslong tradition. For several minutes as the team dressed in conference championship T-shirts and hats, Hopkins alum Chris Tsien hollered from the Homewood Field stands until Chayse Ierlan ambled over, his body beaten from an afternoon of stopping shots with his stick, his chest, his legs and his feet.

With 11 saves in Hopkins’ 7-5 win over No. 5 Maryland, Ierlan had more than earned a banana, powering the team to an outright Big Ten championship and a home victory in what lacrosse calls simply “The Rivalry.”

“He’s been the backbone of our defensive unit and always a calm voice,” defenseman Beaudan Szuluk said. “You can’t really say more than that — he’s a brick wall.”

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Ierlan, a graduate student, anchored the Blue Jays and helped hold the Terps scoreless for the final 23 minutes of the match, giving Hopkins (10-3, 5-0) an undefeated regular season in conference play. Maryland made the Blue Jays earn it, tussling in a match that saw early penalties that set a physical tone.

The Terps got their own star goalkeeping effort out of Logan McNaney, who had 11 saves. But, as Hopkins’ own offense sputtered with just one goal in the second half, Ierlan helped keep Maryland from gaining ground. In the second quarter, he dove twice in a span of seconds for athletic saves.

“About as good a defensive effort as I can remember seeing,” Hopkins coach Peter Milliman said.

Jacob Angelus led Hopkins with two goals and an assist, while Daniel Kelly had two goals to lead Maryland.

This rivalry is so fraught that the schools disagree on how many games count (Hopkins lists 127, while Maryland counts just 120 games when lacrosse was an official varsity sport). They’re two bluebloods of the sport that happen to be in the same state — “a great rivalry, one we all grew up watching,” Angelus said. (According to Hopkins, it leads 76-50-1 in the series.)

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Milliman said, after his introductory press conference in 2020, he quickly started hearing boosters and administrators talking about the rivalry with Maryland, which has won two national championships (2017, 2022) since the Blue Jays’ last in 2007. In some ways, he said, laughing, he’s still getting a handle on it.

“You get a taste of it with how the week goes, and a different energy, focus and intensity from the guys in the locker room, from alums and everyone else around it,” Milliman said. “I don’t know when I really got it. I don’t know when I really will, I guess.”

But, even in what might be the sport’s fiercest rivalry, this chapter was especially high stakes. Both entered the match ranked in the top five for the first time since 2011. The Hopkins campus was buzzing with tailgates for hours before the tilt, and the attendance of 10,458 was the largest at a college lacrosse game this year — the biggest crowd at Homewood Field in 20 years.

Milliman said the attendance surge was “the most important takeaway” of the day, but a lot stands ahead for Hopkins, which is looking for a return to national championship form for the first time in a generation. The team’s last loss to Navy on March 15 was a catalyst for the 5-0 run through the Big 10, including four top-20 opponents and two overtime victories.

Buy your bananas now. Hopkins has plans to be playing for a while.

Kyle joined The Baltimore Banner in 2023 as a sports columnist. He previously covered the L.A. Lakers for The Orange County Register and myriad sports at The Salt Lake Tribune. He’s a Mt. Hebron High and University of Maryland alum.

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