Navy slows Army's march, riding 5-goal 3rd to 12-9 win

Revived No. 7 Mids deal Knights first Patriot loss before biggest home crowd

April 17, 2005|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

Army brought its best team in years to Annapolis yesterday, and the Black Knights fully expected to knock off Navy for a change and shore up the regular-season Patriot League title.

But Navy, which has owned its service academy rival for nearly a decade and clearly has recovered from a bad midseason stumble, would have none of it.

The No. 7 Midshipmen are no longer the team that sleepwalked through a blowout loss to fourth-ranked Georgetown two weeks ago. Not after staging an offensive clinic against No. 5 Army, including a nearly flawless third quarter. Not after pulling away to a 12-9 victory over Army before 12,117, the largest crowd ever to witness an Army-Navy lacrosse game.

With midfielders and brothers Billy and Steve Looney scoring a combined five goals and attackmen Ben Horn and Nick Mirabito adding two apiece, Navy (9-2, 5-1) defeated Army for the eighth straight year, stopped the Black Knights' nine-game win streak and all but sewed up the Patriot crown.

Barring the unlikely combination of a major upset by Holy Cross over Army (9-2, 4-1) on Tuesday and Bucknell (7-3, 4-1) defeating Colgate on Saturday, the Mids will host the four-team Patriot League tournament, beginning April 29.

"We've come a long way back from two weeks ago," said Navy coach Richie Meade, whose team revived itself with a thrilling, come-from-behind win over No. 9 Maryland last week. "It's a reflection of the way we've practiced. I challenged them, and it wasn't pretty what I said to them. They responded."

Navy, which now owns a 51-26-3 edge in the series, won decisively in its 80th meeting, which marked only the third time in the past 20 years that both teams were ranked in the Top 10.

Its tenacious defense did not allow anyone outside of Army's superb attack duo of John Walker (two goals, four assists) and Jim Wagner (four goals) to hurt the Mids. Senior defenseman Mitch Hendler, who also scored on a breakaway goal as the first quarter ended, never let Walker, Army's top point-getter, take over the game.

"[Walker] is one hell of a player, and he is an amazing athlete," Hendler said. "I just tried to get my stick out in front of me to buy me some more time, because he's definitely quicker and faster than I am."

The Mids were definitely too fast and proficient for Army, whether they were running down ground balls or probing the Black Knights' zone defense.

The Mids, who led 6-5 at halftime, jumped Army for four unanswered goals in the third quarter to make it 10-5 with 6:58 left in the period. After Steve Looney opened the run, sophomore goalie Matt Russell (nine saves) made a save with just over 12 minutes left and sparked a fast break, which Mirabito, a freshman, finished with a 10-yard shot from the right wing with 11:52 left in the quarter to make it 8-5.

Horn, the senior attackman, then turned a behind-the-net feed from junior attackman Jon Birsner (one goal, two assists) into a score with 7:57 left. The Mids won the next faceoff, and senior midfielder Dwayne Osgood bounced a shot past Army senior goalie Matt Darak from 15 yards up top to make it 10-5.

Army coach Jack Emmer pulled Darak for freshman Adam Fullerton to start the fourth quarter, with Navy on top 11-6. The Black Knights got no closer than three goals.

"[Navy's] speed in the middle of the field was a big difference," Emmer said. "They got us coming out of the locker room. That halftime talk of mine just didn't work."

Army 3 2 1 3 - 9

Navy 3 3 5 1 - 12

Goals: A-Wagner 4, Walker 2, Scheel, Bokmeyer, Larsen; N-B. Looney 3, S. Looney 2, Horn 2, Mirabito 2, Birsner, Osgood. Assists: A-Walker 4, Scheel; N-Horn 2, Birsner 2, S. Looney, Gill, Harris. Saves: A-Darak 8, Fullerton 2; N-Russell 9.

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