Navy still has Army's number

Mids' 12-11 win over rival eases sting of 6-7 season

College Lacrosse

April 27, 2003|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Kevin Van Valkenburg,SUN STAFF

Spring is a time of honor and tradition for the Naval Academy lacrosse team.

The Midshipmen consider it an honor to compete each year against their rivals from Army. Beating the Black Knights, however, also has become an annual tradition.

Navy defeated Army for the sixth consecutive season yesterday, getting fourth-period goals from Joe Bossi, Greg Conklin and Jon Birsner to hang on for a 12-11 victory before 4,016 at Rip Miller Field.

The win helped Navy (6-7) wrap up a disappointing season on a positive note. The Midshipmen lost seven of eight games during one stretch to fall out of the rankings. They will miss the NCAA tournament for the fourth straight year.

"Obviously, it's been a tough year and that's been well-documented," said Navy coach Richie Meade. "But there hasn't been any quit in our kids. I'm real proud of the way they played today."

Nine Navy players scored at least one goal, helping the Mids reach double digits in goals for just the third time this season.

No. 18 Army (7-6) jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the opening period on goals by Jim Wagner, John Ryan and John Walker.

Army coach Jack Emmer said his team's inspired early play was part of a tribute to John Fernandez, the Black Knights' team captain in 2001 who was recently injured while fighting as a part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"I know John was watching the game on TV today from Walter Reed hospital, and we wanted to say hello and get one for him," Emmer said.

According to Navy freshman Ian Dingman, who scored twice and had two assists, those emotions went both ways.

"I know there was a lot of talk about [Fernandez] getting hurt, and that got them motivated," Dingman said. "But it got us motivated, too. He's not a Navy guy, but he's still a brother in arms."

Navy didn't let Army have the advantage for long. Late in the first period, the Mids started to become more aggressive on defense and Chris Stebbings led a hard-hitting rally that forced the Black Knights into turnovers at their end of the field. The result was three straight scores by the Mids as they went up 4-3.

"I think everybody was on edge because it was such an important game," Stebbings said. "It got a little hectic and a little crazy out there because the momentum kept shifting back and forth."

Sophomore Graham Gill scored to put Navy up 8-5 right after halftime, but Army came charging back with four of the next five goals, including a short-handed score by Walker and a goal from Chris Woods that tied the game at 9.

During the next timeout, the Mids' coaching staff pleaded with its players to remain calm, and Birsner and Conklin responded with a pair of goals just 14 seconds apart to put Navy up for good.

"We look forward to this week all year," said Conklin, one of 13 Navy seniors. "Never having to find out what it feels like to lose to Army in my career feels pretty good."

Army 3 2 2 4 - 11

Navy 4 3 2 3 - 12

Goals: A-Ryan 3, Kostovic 3, Walker 3, Woods, Wagner; N-I. Dingman 2, Conklin 2, Bossi 2, Birsner, Gill, Bailey, Lennon, Kretz, Nash. Assists: A-Bryan 2, Roberts, Ryan, Woods; N-Birsner 2, Conklin 2, I. Dingman 2, Bossi, Gill, Morris. Saves: A-Darak 11; N-DiNola 11.

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