ANNAPOLIS -- With their largest home crowd of the season looking on yesterday, No. 8 Navy (8-3) pulled off its second upset in three games with a 12-2 win over No. 3 Towson State (7-2) before 2,037 fans at Turf Field.
It was Navy's eighth win in its past nine games and its second over a top five team in a week (the Midshipmen defeated then No. 5-Maryland, 11-3, on April 11).
It was the Tigers' second upset loss in three games. After going undefeated in its first six games, Towson lost to Hofstra last Saturday, but defeated Penn State on Wednesday.
"The last couple of weeks we've just been coming into our own," said Navy coach Bryan Matthews, who needs one more victory to reach 100 career wins (99-76 over 14 years). "It's a good time of the year to be rising to the top."
It's also a good time to have the defense turn in another stellar performance as Navy's did yesterday. The Midshipmen allowed 19 shots, with goalie Kevin Farrington shaking off an injury to his right shin to make 16 saves. In the past three games, Farrington has made 27, 12 and 16 saves while opponents have totaled nine goals.
"Kevin Farrington is playing exceptional, exceptional lacrosse," Matthews said. "It all starts in the goal for us, and, with Farrington playing well, that enables our defense to work harder."
But Farrington was not the only hero for Navy, which has its most wins since 1989. The Midshipmen played a physical game on both sides of the ball, taking the Tigers out of their game early.
Navy got four goals and one assist from senior attackman Gardner Smith, three goals from junior attackman Rob Bailey and two goals and an assist each from junior midfielder John Tierney and sophomore midfielder Jamie Slough.
"If you look at our offense, there isn't any one guy we go to," Matthews said. "We just play hard and play with a lot of emotion."
Slough and Tierney scored first-quarter goals for a 2-0 Navy lead. Towson's response was rapid, as Joe Genovese and Stewart Crotty scored two goals in 16 seconds to tie it with 12:19 left in the half.
But Towson was shut out the rest of the way, the team's poorest scoring of the season.
"They out-hustled us and came up with big plays," said Towson coach Carl Runk. "We weren't able to establish any type of offense in the game. I thought we executed poorly."
And the Midshipmen performed exceptionally, as they continued their bid to make the NCAA playoffs for the first time since 1989. With its largest margin of victory this season, Navy proved that its eight-goal victory at Maryland was no fluke.
"We just felt that no one was giving us any respect, that people felt we were lucky to beat Maryland," Farrington said. "You can't help but think that Towson didn't feel we were any good. We'll just have to keep playing the way we are."
While the Midshipmen believe they've earned respect, they'll find out if the team has really arrived on Saturday when they close the regular season by playing host to No. 4 Johns Hopkins at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
"It's a big one," Farrington said. "We haven't beaten them in 20 years, and this one will be important to everyone.
"As for the postseason, we'll just have to keep on winning," he added. "But we don't really see how they can keep us out."