Mids wrap up berth in NCAAs

4-goal run to open 2nd half seals Patriot title

Navy 8 Army 5

May 01, 2006|By DAVE RAHME | DAVE RAHME,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Hamilton, N.Y. -- An automatic berth in the NCAA tournament and a 10-game winning streak over Army hung in the balance, and the Navy lacrosse team desperately needed an offensive spark. It received one from an unlikely source.

Sophomore faceoff specialist William Wallace, who entered yesterday's Patriot League tournament final at Colgate University with three points in his previous 13 games, scored one goal and assisted on another during a four-goal flurry to open the third quarter, carrying the No. 6 Midshipmen to an 8-5 victory over the No. 18 Black Knights.

It was the Midshipmen's third consecutive Patriot League tournament title and 11th consecutive victory over the Black Knights.

Wallace helped Navy shake off a first half in which it took only 12 shots, made numerous unforced errors and went into halftime with a 2-2 tie. Less than three minutes into the third quarter, the score was 6-2 Navy, and Army had yet to touch the ball.

"You can't beat it when you're playing make-it, take-it," said junior attackman Ian Dingman, who scored two goals and assisted on another. "It was kind of a flat first half. To come out in the second half and score right away and then keep doing it gave us such an emotional advantage, and William obviously was the biggest part of it."

Wallace, 3-for-6 in the first half against Army career faceoff leader Tony Vozzolo, won the opening draw of the third quarter, and 33 seconds later midfielder Nick Mirabito tucked a rebound past Army goaltender Adam Fullerton to put Navy (11-3) ahead to stay.

Wallace won the ensuing draw, stayed on the field after advancing the ball into the offensive box and got open on the crease to convert Jon Birsner's pass into a layup. Six seconds later ,the ball was in the cage again, this time on a pass from Wallace to Dingman right off the draw. When Birsner (one goal, three assists) sprinted around from behind the goal and whipped a tough-angle shot over Fullerton's shoulder on Navy's next possession, completing the four-goal run in 2:25, it was 6-2 and the complexion of the game had changed.

"You play 58 minutes fairly even, and in two minutes they got their run," Army coach Joe Alberici said. "The key was Wallace, no question about it."

"The third quarter was something our team needed to focus on," said Wallace, who was 7-for-11 in faceoffs in the second half. "Obviously, I feel responsible for starting the third quarter right and the second half right, and I think we did that today."

The flurry erased a shaky first half by the Navy offense and put the outcome in the hands of its defense, which is 27-1 since 2004 when holding opponents to six or fewer goals. Army (8-6), which had used its vaunted transition game to come back from an 8-5 fourth-quarter deficit to defeat top-seeded Colgate, 10-8, in the semifinals, couldn't do it in the final.

"We're the first [Navy] team to ever play them six times," said Birsner, who was named the tournament's most valuable player. "That's pretty crazy. It's almost standard now to play them twice. And it's kind of a different thing that both programs aren't used to. It makes the season really tough knowing you have to play them twice."

Army 1 1 1 2 - 5

Navy 1 1 5 1 - 8

Goals: A-Scheel 2, LoRusso, Obringer, Walker; N-Dingman 2, Birsner, Guido, Harris, Mirabito, Wallace, Wallin. Assists: A-Walker 2, Burton; N-Birsner 3, Dingman, Wallace. Saves: A-Fullerton 14; N-Russell 5. A: 515.

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