Feb. 14, 2009

Courtesy of Navy

ANNAPOLIS, Md. --  Senior attackman Bruce Nechanicky (Montgomery Village, Md.) scored Navy's final two goals of the game to anchor the Mids' 8-6 lacrosse victory over 19th-ranked Ohio State Saturday afternoon at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis. While the Midshipmen improved to 2-0 overall the season, they also pushed their series advantage to 5-1, including wins in each of the last three meetings against the Buckeyes.

"Ohio State is a very talented team and to get a win like this in February is great," said Navy head coach Richie Meade, who is just one win shy of his 150th collegiate win.

The game had its fair share of dramatic moments and none would be more telling than when Jeff Ryan's game-opening goal for the Buckeyes was wiped away after his stick was found to be illegal. Not only did the goal not count, Ryan was sent to the penalty box for a three-minute non-releaseable penalty. The Buckeyes nearly weathered the storm as Navy threw away the ball early, but the Mids regrouped and with just three seconds left in the penalty, Navy junior Tim Paul (Parkton, Md.) found middie Patrick Moran (Annapolis, Md.) for the extra-man goal at 6:03 in the opening quarter.

"I thought that play was huge," said Meade, in regards to Ohio State's goal being waved off. "When it happens early in the game, it does have an effect."

Nearly a minute-and-a-half later, Paul gave Navy a 2-0 lead when he found a seam and sailed the ball past OSU keeper Brandon Freeman. The Mids padded their lead to three goals on a 10-yard shot by junior attackman Brendan Connors (Bellmore, N.Y.), who sent his shut straight up the alley over Freeman's shoulder.

The Buckeyes regrouped in the second quarter and relied upon their two senior attackmen, Ryan and Joel Dalgarno who rattled off three straight goals to knot the game. Dalgarno pumped in back-to-back goals, including the equalizer at 7:20 off an assist by junior midfielder James Green.

Navy answered with back-to-back unassisted goals in less than a span of a minute, including a goal by Connors who literally lifted the ball out of the stick of the keeper and stuffed it back into the net with five minutes to go in the game.

The Mids looked to take a 5-3 lead into the locker room, however, Ohio State had something very different in mind. Instead, Dalgarno and junior attack Mario Ventiquattro hooked up on a nifty play where Ventiquattro snuck behind the goal and slipped his defender, catching the pass as he came around the corner and hugged the crease. He pumped it over the shoulder of Navy keeper Matt Coughlin (Brightwaters, N.Y.) with just three seconds remaining in the half to cut the Mids' lead to one heading into the half.

Much like last week's game, the Mids began the second half particularly strong on offense. Navy scored goals two minutes apart to push its lead to three, 7-4, early in the third quarter. Warner, who dealt out a career-high three assists, found Paul sitting on the doorstep for his second goal of the game. It was then Nechanicky who fired off a shot and though Freeman stopped it, the ball had too much momentum behind it and dribbled its way into the back of the goal.

Again, Ohio State put up a fight. Dalgarno recorded his third goal of the game on an unassisted shot with 1:36 remaining in the third quarter. With time winding down, Navy's unforced error in a clear attempt came back to bite the Mids as Ventiquattro scored off a Ryan assist with one second before the end of the quarter.

"There aren't too many teams that can make a play like that at the end of the half," said Meade. "That was impressive."

Navy's defense was stout in the fourth quarter, giving up just two shots, while Navy struggled to put its shots on goal. The Mids got eight looks at the goal, putting three on goal, including Nechanicky's second goal of the game with under three minutes to play. Nechanicky's goal was one for the highlight reel, as he took the Warner pass and flipped it over his shoulder, never giving Freeman a chance to see the ball.

Paul, Connors and Nechanicky each turned in a pair of goals to lead the way for the Midshipmen, while Warner handed out a trio of assists. Meanwhile, Ohio State's starting attack accounted for all six of its goals, including All-American Dalgarno who pitched in three goals and an assist.

Navy's defense did an admirable job on the Buckeyes, stifling their extra-man unit after a week ago scoring on 4-of-6 opportunities. The Mids held Ohio State to a combined five shots in the first and fourth quarters en route to shutting the Buckeyes out in both periods. Coughlin turned in six saves for the Mids, including four stops in the opening half.

The Midshipmen will play the first of three consecutive road games next Friday when they travel to Chapel Hill, N.C. to face long-time rival North Carolina. Last spring, Navy eliminated the Tar Heels from the NCAA?Tournament by turning back ninth-ranked and fourth-seeded Carolina, 8-7, in the opening round played at Fetzer Field in Chapel Hill. Friday's contest is slated to begin at 7:30 pm.