Air Force surprises Navy, 8-6

Glen Burnie's Wzientek leads Falcons' `D,' dims Mids' postseason hopes

March 26, 2003|By Tommy Ventre | Tommy Ventre,SUN STAFF

With an 0-2 Eastern College Athletic Conference record, a potentially season-breaking game against first-place Georgetown looming Sunday, and its NCAA tournament hopes teetering on the brink of collapse, the last thing the Navy lacrosse team could afford was losing to a lightly regarded nonleague opponent at home.

But that's just what happened last night at Rip Miller Field in Annapolis, where the Mids played ugly, mistake-filled lacrosse and lost to Air Force, 8-6, before a crowd of 1,473.

The Mids' first loss in five meetings against the Falcons dropped them to 4-3, and they still have to play the Hoyas, Maryland and Johns Hopkins.

"This is very, very difficult," Navy coach Richie Meade said. "This is about as low as we've been. It's hard to believe our team beat North Carolina three weeks ago. It's a credit to Air Force, and we've got a lot of work to do, obviously."

Junior attack Greg Dangler scored four times to lead Air Force (2-4), which had lost to Navy by double-digit margins in three of the teams' previous four meetings. Just last weekend the Falcons dropped a 10-4 decision to Mount St. Mary's.

But last night, the Falcons forced the Mids into a choppy, error-filled game that neutralized any advantage Navy had in size, speed or skill.

Air Force jumped ahead in the first quarter on goals by Dangler and Joe French. Freshman Ian Dingman put Navy on the board with 5:41 left in the first, and Jon Birsner tied the game after losing his defender behind the cage and beating Air Force goalie William Arnold (14 saves) at the 1:10 mark.

Then Alex DeManss and Kyle Warf scored back-to-back goals for the Falcons to open the second quarter, and they led the rest of the way.

Dingman, who entered with 14 goals, eight assists and a growing reputation as one of the nation's top freshmen, finished with two goals and two assists after playing with a sore left thigh. But the bigger factor in his below-average output was an Air Force defense led by Nick Wzientek, a 6-foot-7 defenseman from Glen Burnie who was the only player on the field with a size advantage on the 250-pound Dingman.

Wzientek and the rest of the Falcons' close defense made Arnold's job easy, though the Mids hurt themselves with sloppy passing and a few shots that struck the crossbar.

"This is just a huge win for our program," said Arnold, who played at Westminster High School. "I've got a great bunch of defensive guys in front of me. Navy's a great team, but we played great defense tonight and came out on top."

Air Force 2 3 1 2 - 8

Navy 2 1 2 1 - 6

Goals: AF-Dangler 4, French, Warf, DeManss, Colosimo; N-I.Dingman 2, Conklin 2, Gill, Birsner. Assists: AF-French 2, Lederer 2, Keleher, Warf; N-I.Dingman 2, Gill 2, Conklin. Saves: AF-Arnold 14; N-S.DiNola 3.

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