Princeton Vs. Navy

May 29, 2004|By Jeff Zrebiec

11:30 A.M., ESPN2

Key factors

Navy's defense on Ryan Boyle: Boyle, the savvy quarterback of the Princeton offense, can take over a game. Navy cannot let him find the open man or blaze his own path to the goal. The Tigers usually attack the short sticks, but on key possessions, Boyle will have the ball.

Goalies: Navy sophomore Matt Russell went from a reserve to potentially a first-team All-American. He has the ability to make outstanding saves and get in shooters' heads. His counterpart, sophomore Dave Law, isn't as flashy, but his consistency has been key.

Tempo: When Navy is at its best, it creates opportunities off faceoffs and in transition, using the speed of its midfielders and long sticks. Navy's offense has been ordinary in recent weeks, so a methodical half-field game may play into Princeton's hands.

Intangibles: The Tigers always believe that they are going to win. They are 19-3 in NCAA tournament games decided by one goal. However, it would be hard to imagine that any team is fitter or tougher than the Midshipmen, who will have about 40,000 fans in their corner.

The bottom line

This game likely will go down to the wire. Navy has proved its mettle all season. The Midshipmen will thrive if they can create some goals off unsettled situations, dominate the faceoffs and get another standout performance from Russell and their defense.

The Tigers' best chance to prevail will be in a low-scoring game, dominated at one end by its defense and at the other end by Boyle.

Navy is the deeper and quicker team, but will that translate into a berth in the final on Memorial Day?

When Princeton has the ball

First things first, the Tigers need to get the ball. Faceoffs aren't their strong suit. Neither is clearing, and Navy may be the best riding team in the country.

Tigers coach Bill Tierney probably will have to depend a lot on freshmen midfielders Whitney Hayes and Scott Sowanick, who figure to draw Navy's short-stick defenders. The Tigers like to invert, starting their offense behind the goal with one of their midfielders.

If Hayes and Sowanick, both converted attackmen, or Drew Casino can force a slide, that will free up attackmen Ryan Boyle (22 goals, 41 assists) and Jason Doneger (36 goals). Boyle will look to feed first, but the gifted senior has proved time and again that he'll do whatever it takes.

Navy's Mitch Hendler, Jared Bosanko, Mike Felber and goalie Matt Russell comprise the No. 1 defensive unit in the county, allowing 6.6 goals a game. The Mids' defenders are athletic and physical, but patience may be critical today. The Tigers are very savvy, and they'll punish an overzealous defense.

When Navy has the ball

Midshipmen coach Richie Meade warns that his team is not a run-and-gun outfit, but good things usually happen when short-stick midfielders Clipper Lennon and Steve Looney, long stick Thomas Morris or faceoff specialist Chris Pieczonka race the ball up the field in transition.

The Mids have averaged 12.43 goals, second in the country to Syracuse, but have been kept under wraps in the past three games.

Sophomore attackman Ian Dingman (34 goals, 23 assists), the Mids' 6-foot-3, 248-pound bull dodger, is Navy's marquee name, though Joe Bossi is a tremendous finisher (41 goals) and Jon Birsner, who often works from behind the cage, is a nifty feeder (26 assists).

The Tigers, led by close defenseman Ricky Schultz and goalie Dave Law, play very good team defense, often packing it in and forcing teams to beat them from the outside.

That means Navy midfielders Ben Bailey and Graham Gill, who probably will draw one of Princeton's freshman long-stick midfielders, will loom large.

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