The Naval Academy lacrosse team has lost seven players this year because of injuries, two before the season started. The Mids have lost two games by one goal, one of which was to rival Army in double overtime. And after game No. 10, they were pretty much out of the postseason picture.
Yesterday, an off season became a losing season as Navy allowed five straight goals in the second period, losing to No. 6 Johns Hopkins, 15-11, before a homecoming crowd of 9,705 at Homewood Field.
Navy finished the season at 5-6, only the sixth losing season since the academy began playing lacrosse in 1908. But it was the third losing season for Navy coach Bryan Matthews, who completed his ninth season. It will also be the second straight year Navy has failed to make the 12-team National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I tournament.
There has been speculation that Matthews, with a 91-72 Navy career record, might step down, or be forced to resign at the conclusion of the season. Matthews, though, said yesterday that he plans to stay at Navy.
"You know how those rumors are in the lacrosse world," said Matthews. "At this point there are no plans not to return. I can't give any reason to leave. The Naval Academy is a great place, a great institution and I get to work with some of the finest young men in the country.
"The injuries are part of the game, and you just have to go on," he said. "I plan to go back to work Monday and try to put together another team for next year."
Actually, Navy had its chances to have a winning season yesterday, but waited until the second half to implement its game plan of a deliberate offense. By then, Johns Hopkins (6-3) had a 10-5 halftime lead and the Mids could never finish off their comeback attempt.
Johns Hopkins dictated the pace early in the game especially senior attackman Matt Panetta, who beat Navy defender Kevin Caradona for three first-period goals and gave the Blue Jays a 5-4 first-quarter lead.
The Blue Jays simply outran Navy, which also had trouble clearing, in the second period as Johns Hopkins outshot the Mids, 21-6. Five different players scored for the Blue Jays, who had a 10-4 lead with 5 minutes, 36 seconds left in the half. Midfielder John Quinn scored Navy's only goal of the quarter with 10 seconds left in the half.
"We tried to make them run because they like to take the air out TTC of the ball," said Johns Hopkins coach Tony Seaman.
The Mids were successful with the tactic in the second half and two straight goals, one each from midfielders Matt Pawlikowski and Chris Mulieri, pulled Navy within 12-8 with 2:56 left in the third period.
But seconds after Navy won the ensuing faceoff, a Navy player was apparently tripped forcing him to lose the ball to Johns Hopkins. Within 20 seconds, Johns Hopkins midfielder Brian Lukacz took a pass from Panetta to score an extra-man goal that put the Blue Jays ahead, 13-8, at the end of the third quarter.
"Instead of us having the ball and the extra man, we lose the ballget the penalty and they score," said Matthews. "It was a big play, but you know I don't say anything about the officials."
Navy, though, still kept plugging away. Quinn (three goals) scored with 13:07 left in the game, and Pawlikowski scored almost a minute later to cut the Blue Jays lead to 13-10. But then Johns Hopkins, with the aid of midfielders Frank Corto (5 feet 6, 135 pounds) and Todd Cavallaro (5-7, 140), began holding the ball.
The Blue Jays caught Navy's defense off guard twice in the remaining time, once on a hard, 30-foot shot by midfielder Steve Coffey with 6:43 left, then on pass from attackman Jeff Wills to midfielder Brendan Cody for a goal outside the crease with 3:15 left that gave Johns Hopkins a 15-11 lead.