Navy ousts Lehigh, hits Patriot title game

Birsner leaves with injury in Mids' 10-6 semifinal win

College Lacrosse

April 30, 2005|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

Navy attackman Jon Birsner was off to a great start. He had an assist and a goal in the first eight minutes, but the goal may have been costly because Birsner had to leave at halftime yesterday.

Navy got by without Birsner, the quarterback of its offense, in a 10-6 win against Lehigh yesterday in a Patriot League men's lacrosse semifinal at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, but his status for tomorrow's title game there against Army is uncertain.

Birsner had put the Mids ahead 3-0 with 7:40 left in the first quarter as he darted from behind the goal, and then hit a shot from the right of the goal, about 5 yards outside the crease.

But after his shot, a Lehigh midfielder crashed into Birsner's back, knocking him to the ground. Birsner was removed the game, returned a few minutes later, played the entire second quarter but did not come back to the field for the second half.

He was later found to have a concussion.

A Navy spokesman listed Birsner as probable for the title game, but Navy coach Richie Meade still has to prepare for possibly being without the junior from Levittown, N.Y., who had nine goals and 24 assists entering yesterday's game.

"I think he'll be fine," Meade said. "Concussions are pretty big. He got hit, and the doctor didn't think he should continue to play. He seemed fine. He didn't play well after he got hit, and obviously, we thought it was best to rest him."

Asked who might replace Birsner, Meade replied: "Someone will play. We're going to put 10 on the field. We have a variety of things we can do that we practice, and we'll do one of those things."

Without Birsner, the Mids were still balanced. The brother combination of Steve and Billy Looney, both midfielders, accounted for four goals. Midfielder Graham Gill also had two goals.

But despite the balanced scoring, Navy (10-3) couldn't put pesky Lehigh (9-5) away. Navy jumped out to a 4-0 first-quarter lead, but only led 5-2 at the half despite having one offensive possession for nearly six minutes in the second quarter.

A Navy team that usually relies on discipline and hustle was penalized six times for 4:30 during the game, and the Mids allowed two extra-man goals in the second quarter. If the Mountain Hawks could have converted on an extra-man penalty to open the third quarter, they could have pulled within two.

Instead, Navy goalie Matt Russell stopped midfielder Jeff Wiener's shot to open the third period, and started Navy's transition. Billy Looney scored on a man down with 13:37 remaining in the third period, and brother Steve scored two in just under a minute to put Navy ahead 8-2 with 11:02 left in the third.

"I thought we did a good job of winning the game," Meade said. "One of the things that was a little frustrating was we built the lead, but didn't capitalize on it. We had possession of the ball for about six minutes in the second quarter, didn't score, and we had excellent opportunities."

Navy had a 34-24 advantage in ground balls and outshot Lehigh, 38-18.

But penalties against a quality opponent could prove costly.

"It's something we need to work on," Gill said. "Offensively, we can't score on our defense, on our own team. We played great six-on-six. I think we're one of the best six-on-six teams."

In the other semifinal, freshman attackman Matt Scheel scored from the left of the goal about 5 yards outside the crease with 2:13 left in the four-minute overtime as Army defeated Bucknell, 9-8. The Cadets lost an 8-6 lead in the final six minutes of regulation. Bucknell won the faceoff in overtime, but failed to convert on its lone shot attempt.

Lehigh 0 2 3 1 - 6

Navy 4 1 4 1 - 10

Goals: L-Lucas 3, Morin, Mastromonaco, Best; N-S. Looney 2, Gill 2, B. Looney 2, Birsner, Mirabito, Horn, Wallace. Assists: L-Cassilly, Lucas, Morin, Wiener; N-Birsner 2, S. Looney, Wallin. Saves: L-Spirko 9; N-Russell 9.

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