April 24, 2009

LEWISBURG, Pa. - Joe Mele and Perry Menzies scored goals in the final three minutes to lead the 15th-ranked and top-seeded Bucknell men's lacrosse team to a 10-8 victory over Army in the Patriot League Tournament semifinals at sunny Christy Mathewson-Memorial Stadium Friday afternoon. The Bison advanced to the championship game for the second straight year, where they will face 11th-ranked and third-seeded Navy on Sunday at 3 p.m. on CBS College Sports.

Mele, Menzies, Austin Winter and Charlie Streep all scored two goals for a balanced Bucknell offense, and for senior goalie Nick Sciubba it was a day of redemption. Sciubba was pulled late in second quarter after giving up a couple of long-range goals, but he returned in the second half and made three tough saves in the final three minutes, two of them coming in a critical situation with the Bison protecting a one-goal lead.

Bucknell (9-6) scored five of the final six goals to overcome a 7-5 deficit late in the third quarter. After Menzies pulled them within 7-6, Streep tied it with yet another buzzer-beating shot. The Patriot League Rookie of the Year beat Navy earlier in the year with a goal at the final buzzer, and he had another one at the halftime horn in last week's win over Colgate that clinched the regular-season title. This time, on a nearly-identical play as the Navy game, he took the ball deep in the corner on a restart with four seconds left, beat a long pole to the crease and scored the tying goal a split second before the horn.

Jason Peyer netted his third of the day 2:42 into the fourth quarter to put Army back in front 8-7, but less that three minutes later Winter tied it with a whirling shot to the left of the goal. That ignited a 3-0 Bucknell run to end the game.

With 2:58 to play, Winter, the Patriot League assists leader, took the ball behind the goal and found Mele open in front, and the senior buried his second goal of the day and 102nd of his career to put the Bison back ahead.

Army won the draw and immediately found Jeremy Boltus open on the left side, but Sciubba kicked aside the open shot attempt. Bucknell could not clear, though, and with 1:28 remaining, Sciubba made another highlight-reel save on Peyer.

This time the Bison did clear, and with 36 seconds remaining and the Army goalie out of the crease, Streep dished to Menzies for an empty-netter and a 10-8 lead. Sciubba, the Patriot League Goalie of the Year, put an exclamation point on the victory with another close-range save just before the final horn, and he fired the ball high into the air as the large crowd of over 3,500 fans, most of them Bucknell students, erupted with cheers.

Streep, who was coming off a five goal game against Colgate, had four more points in this one with two goals and two assists. Menzies and Winter also had assists, giving them three points.

Peyer led Army with three goals, while Matt Poulos had a good day at the faceoff X, winning 10 of 16.

Jake Clarke won 9 of 21 draws for Bucknell and had five more ground balls, upping his school-record season total to 84. Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year Billy Haire had another strong game with five ground balls and two caused turnovers.

With his three points, Winter passed three players and moved into fifth place on Bucknell's all-time list with 145.

Neither team led by more than one goal until Army's Tyler Oates scored off a Rob McCallion feed to complete a 3-0 run and put the Black Knights up 7-5.

Army scored first on a Brooks Korvin goal 4:07 into the contest, but Winter answered with an unassisted tally 1:51 later. Mele scored a fastbreak goal with the Bison up a man to give Bucknell its first lead of the day at 3-2 with 22 seconds left in the first quarter.

Tim Brandau scored a quick-stick goal off a pretty feed from Streep to put Bucknell up 4-3, but 3:49 before the halftime break Sean O'Sullivan fired a shot through Sciubba's legs to tie the game, and the Bison brought senior goalie Matt Antonelli off the bench.

Army scored twice in a row off Antonelli in the third quarter to go up 6-5, and Sciubba returned with 9:06 left in the third. He gave up only two more goals the rest of the way and finished the day with eight saves.

Tom Palesky was solid for the Black Knights, making 11 saves.

The win was Bucknell's fifth in a row over Army, and it was the second straight year the Bison knocked the Black Knights out of the tournament in the semifinals. Last year, Bucknell won 8-7 when Army was the No. 1 seed and tournament host. The Bison went on to fall 13-9 to Colgate in their first-ever championship game appearance.

The Bison thought they might be drawing the Raiders in the final once again when Colgate jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead on Navy in the second semifinal game. The Midshipmen fought back to take a 6-5 lead in the third quarter, only to see Colgate jump back in front 8-6 in the fourth. But Patrick Moran scored with 2:51 left and again with 1:21 remaining to send it to overtime. And with 2:46 remaining in the third overtime period, it was Moran scoring again to give the Mids a 9-8 win.

During the regular-season Bucknell knocked off Navy 8-7 at home on Streep's dramatic goal, but that game was played way back on Feb. 28 in frigid temperatures. Sunday's forecast calls for bright sunshine and temperatures in the mid-80s.