As Navy's players ran up and down the field at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in the third quarter yesterday, all Army's players could do was drag behind, looking as if they needed oxygen masks.
The Midshipmen scored three goals in the first four minutes of the third period and two in the final two minutes to turn a close game into a 15-8 rout of Army in the Patriot League championship game yesterday.
Army watched its dream of an upset turn into a nightmare as Navy beat the Black Knights for the ninth straight time. Navy midfielder Graham Gill had four goals and Mids attackman Nick Mirabito had three, but Army coach Jack Emmer could sum up the Navy victory in one word:
"Those guys in the middle of the field were outstanding and Navy is very good right there," Emmer said. "We needed to keep the ball longer, control the game. Their play in the middle of the field is really hard for us to contend with."
Army had no answers. Meanwhile, Navy coach Richie Meade kept pouring out midfielders like Gill and the brother connection of Bill and Steve Looney. And then he kept coming with William Wallace, Seth DiNola, Cody Shea and Dwayne Osgood.
Several times, Navy caught Army with its offensive midfielders at the defensive end. It was no contest. Goals came easy.
"I thought we ran the field well," said Meade. "Not necessarily with the ball, but with our defensive middies and our poles. We did an excellent job in the substitution game, catching their offensive guys on the field. We attacked them and they got tired."
DiNola, Mirabito, and Gill scored three straight goals, all from the right side and from barely outside the crease, to open the third quarter as Navy (11-3) took a 9-5 lead with 11 minutes and 31 seconds left.
Navy attackman Ben Horn scored with 1:26 left in the quarter, and when Bill Looney blew past midfielder Ben Harrow for a goal with 39 seconds left, the Mids had a 12-7 advantage and the game was basically over.
Meade knew he could zap some of Army's energy because the Black Knights (11-4) had been playing two games a week since the beginning of April. Plus, Navy had been in this situation before, having played two games within 48 hours twice during the past year.
"We fully understood we had to come out in the third period and take control of the game, as Navy did," said Emmer. "They obviously did a better job of that then us.
"Navy's sub game gave us a lot of trouble," Emmer added. "You usually don't practice substitution, but we did. We had them run out, and we still had problems with that. We've got 11 wins. We've done an outstanding job. Unfortunately, we've got a good team; Navy has a better team."
Navy is peaking at the right time. Since losing to Georgetown, 11-6, on April 2, the Mids have beaten Maryland once and Army twice and played well enough to beat Johns Hopkins before losing to the No. 1 Blue Jays, 9-8, in overtime.
Navy's offense played well during this two-day tournament, even though attackman Jon Birsner had to play with a concussion in the first half of the semifinals against Lehigh.
Despite a poor first quarter yesterday, the Mids handcuffed Army's offense except for attackman John Walker, who finished with five goals.
"This is a good feeling," Gill said. "We're going to take a couple of days off, get some rest. It's been a tough run that we've been through with the games Friday and Sunday. The games before, none of those teams were easy. We're going to get some rest, and then get back to work.
"Exams are this week, and that's something we have to deal with. As soon as school is over, we'll be playing lacrosse 24 hours a day."
Army 3 2 2 1 - 8
Navy 1 5 6 3 - 15
Goals: A-Walker 5, Scheel, Vozzolo, Wagner; N-Gill 4, Mirabito 3, Horn 2, B. Looney 2, Birsner, DiNola, S. Looney, Wallace. Assists: A-Couch, Green, Mineo, Scheel; N-Birsner 5, Gill 2, Horn, B. Looney, S. Looney. Saves: A-Fullerton 12 ; N-Russell 7, Hage 1.