April 25, 2010

Courtesy of Navy

ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- With just 10 seconds remaining in overtime, junior attackman Andy Warner (Corning, N.Y.) sped around Hopkins defender Matt Drenan to score what will be one of the most talked about goals by the Navy faithful for years to come, as the Navy men's lacrosse team (6-7) scored a 9-8 OT win over 17th-ranked Johns Hopkins (5-7) Saturday afternoon at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. More than 10,000 fans watched the Midshipmen snap a 36-game losing streak which dated back to 1975.

"I've walked off this field and into the locker room having to face my team, knowing they played their hearts out and didn't win," said a tearful Navy head coach Richie Meade. "To our players and those guys who weren't successful in beating Hopkins along the way, this means so much to them. It means so much to me to have them here with us today and experiencing it. I'm just extremely proud of our team."

It was an uphill climb for the Mids as they found themselves down 5-0 after the opening quarter of play. It was just the second time this season the Mids were held scoreless for a quarter, the first was against North Carolina in the third game of the season.

Navy, though, battled back as it has so many times before.

"We were definitely disappointed being down 5-0, but we've come back before," said Warner, who ended the day with one goal and two assists. "There's a lot of heart in this team and I think the mark of this team has been our ability to fight back."

Navy's offense and defense complemented one another for the next 15 minutes, as the Midshipmen scored six unanswered goals to take a 6-5 lead into the locker room. Senior midfielder Patrick Moran (Annapolis, Md.) sparked the run with an impressive goal just 40 seconds into the quarter. Moran, on the run, switched hands shooting hands at the last minute to poke in his 23rd goal of the year just inside the far post.

The Mids then scored three goals over the course of two minutes, including the first-collegiate goal by rookie midfielder Bucky Smith (Great Falls, Va.). Smith had been utilized as a defensive midfielder nearly the entire season, however, Meade moved him to the offensive side of the field two weeks ago.

Senior midfielder Joe Lennon (Westminster, Md.) had a hand in each of the next two goals, though he'd be credited with just one of those two goals. With 8:27 left in the half, Lennon sent his shot towards the goal only to have it turned aside by Hopkins keeper Pierce Bassett. The ball, however, trickled out of Bassett's stick and back into the play where midfielder Matt Dolente swatted the ball into his own goal. Less than a minute later, Lennon scored from nearly the same spot he took his earlier shot to pull the Mids to within one at 5-4.

Rookie Jay Mann (Cockeysville, Md.) scored the equalizer on a 10-yard blast from the right wing.

"I think two of the most important goals of the game were by Bucky and Jay," said Meade While made the switch in fields, Mann bounced back after suffering a broken collarbone against North Carolina in late February.

The Mids scored the go-ahead goal with just 43 seconds left in the half when Lennon's shot hit the cross bar and shot straight into the stick of Brendan Connors (Bellmore, N.Y.) who was standing on the crease. He barely had it in his stick when he let it fly, paying special attention to stay out of the crease.

After being held scoreless the entire second period, Hopkins came out of the locker room and scored three straight goals to take a 8-6 advantage with under four minutes to go in the third period.

With under 20 seconds to go, Navy patiently worked the ball around and put it in the stick of sophomore attackman Ryan O'Leary. O'Leary wrapped around the left side of the goal, looking for an opening for himself. But at the last second, Connors cut towards the middle and O'Leary threaded the pass to Connors to trim the lead to one, 8-7, with 10 seconds left in the third quarter.

Just one goal was surrendered in the fourth quarter, an extra-man strike by the Mids after Kyle Wharton was called for a slash. Moran scored his second goal of the day on 17-yarder off a pass from fellow senior Evan Sullivan (Westfield, N.J.) with 9:39 remaining.

Navy's defense was stout in the final quarter and was anchored by the play of sophomore goalkeeper RJ Wickham (Penn Yan, N.Y.) who made three of his nine saves in the fourth quarter.

Navy held the ball the final three minutes of the game, setting up a final shot, but Moran's shot would sail wide, forcing the Mids' fifth overtime contest of the year.

Senior draw specialist Robby Battle put the all in the Mids' hands with a faceoff win and Warner got off what he had hoped would be the game-winner, but Bassett snatched it out of the air 52 seconds into the extra frame. The Jays cleared the ball and Wickham came up with a big save on a Michael Kimmel shot. Just seconds later, senior long pole Zack Schroeder (Deer Park, N.Y.) got a piece of Kimmel's stick, jarring the ball loose. Senior close defenseman Gordon Lawson picked up the ground ball and got it defensive midfielder Marty Gallagher (Wayne, Pa.). Hopkins nearly forced O'Leary to cough up the ball behind the cage, but Navy was awarded a timeout with 1:08 remaining in OT.

Coming out of the timeout, Moran made a run at the goal, finding Nikk Davis (Cockeysville, Md.) open on the crease. Davis made a leaping catch and sent the ball just over the top of the cross bar with 15 seconds left. With the ball back in Navy's hands, Warner used a Davis screen to scramble past Drenan for the game-winner.

Navy topped Hopkins in shots (40-32), ground balls (35-21), faceoff wins (13-8) and managed its turnovers (14-16). Battle and sophomore Logan West shared the faceoff duties with Battle winning seven and West taking six of the nine draws. Battle led all Navy players with seven ground balls while Lawson picked up six grounders on the defensive side of the field.

With a 6-5 advantage at the half, Navy has now won 19 straight when leading at the break.

The Midshipmen have now played seven one-goal games this season, putting together a 3-4 record. All three of the Mids' one-goal victories have been decided in overtime, while two of the four losses have been in extra minutes. Seventeen of the 84 games in the series have been decided by one goal, including five of the last eight.

"If there is anything I can teach our players, it's to keep fighting, to believe in themselves and be great leaders," added Meade.

The Midshipmen will be back in action next Friday when they head to West Point, N.Y. to take part in the four-team Patriot League Tournament. Navy will face second-seeded Lafayette at either 3:00 pm or 5:45 pm at Army's Michie Stadium, while top-seeded Army and Bucknell will face one another in the other semifinal contest. CBS College Sports will televise both semifinal contests. Fans can also tune in to the radio broadcast with Pete Medhurst calling the action on 1430 WNAV.