UM's Phipps, Navy's Moran set for one last showdown

Meeting will likely be final one between longtime friends, competitors

April 09, 2010|By Edward Lee | edward.lee@baltsun.com

Saturday's showdown between the Navy and Maryland men's lacrosse teams notwithstanding, the chess match between Patrick Moran and Brian Phipps could be nearly as entertaining.

Moran, a senior midfielder for No. 20 Navy, and Phipps, a senior goalkeeper for the No. 5 Terps, have known each other since they were fifth-graders playing on the same youth lacrosse team. That familiarity has borne a friendly competition.

Phipps is still somewhat bothered by the goal he surrendered to Moran during their sophomore years. Moran knows that if he takes a shot that is blocked or misses the net, he can expect to see Phipps mockingly put his hands on his hips.

What figures to be the final installment of their rivalry will take place at noon at Byrd Stadium in College Park, and both players said they're looking forward to the game.

"It's nice growing up in a hotbed because you have friends on pretty much every team that you play," Phipps said. "It's a friendly rivalry every time."

Added Moran: "We always say a few things back and forth, get a little trash-talking going. But it's all business when we get on the field on Saturday."

The roots of their friendship began when they tried out for a team in the Annapolis Youth Lacrosse Association. Brian played attack and goalie on the team, coached by his father, Wilson. During tryouts, one young attackman caught the attention of the coaching staff.

"Patrick always had an extremely hard shot," Wilson Phipps recalled. "He had the same hard shot then as he does now. And we saw that he had some potential and some talent. ... He wasn't the fastest guy, but he had a very good stick. He could catch and he could shoot."

Moran and Phipps enrolled at Severn School in Severna Park, where Moran continued to play attack and Phipps dedicated himself to becoming a goalie. Daily practices usually entailed Moran unleashing his patented overhand shots at Phipps. That, according to both players, is where they refined their craft.

"It was a personal competition between us," Moran said. "If I scored a goal, I would be on him, and if he stopped a shot, he would get on me right back. It kind of presented a fun challenge for us."

Added Phipps: "We'd do four-on-three fast-break drills every day in practice, and he'd get to the point and shoot. It's fun playing against the best. To be the best, you've got to beat the best, and I always thought that going against him during practice made me better."

Moran, who is a year older, was lightly recruited but ended up at the Naval Academy, his dream destination. Phipps followed his father's path to College Park.

Despite the annual meeting between the Midshipmen and the Terps, the hometown friends have faced each other only once - in 2008, when Phipps played the first half. Moran took two shots that day, scoring once.

"Getting that goal put me ahead," Moran said.

Added Phipps: "He let me know about that. That was frustrating."

The friendship between Moran and Phipps has extended to their families. Wilson and Betty Phipps attended Navy's 8-7 overtime victory over Bucknell on March 6, openly rooting for Moran. When Maryland's comeback fell short in an 11-10 loss to No. 1 Virginia on Saturday night, William and Susan Moran felt Brian Phipps' pain.

"That's the one great thing about lacrosse, especially for me, who has coached players who have gone their different ways to college," Wilson Phipps said. "We have friends on pretty much every team that we play. There's a couple kids on North Carolina, a couple at Hopkins and Duke, and it's always great to see their families. So it's never awkward to see friends that you've coached, and you always want them to do well."

Barring a meeting in the NCAA tournament, Saturday will be the last game pitting Moran against Phipps. That finality figures to be a bittersweet moment, Susan Moran said.

"You see these two kids who have been the best of friends for a very long time and have been so supportive of one another," she said. "The fact that it's all coming to an end, it's sad in a way, but we're excited for what lies beyond the game of lacrosse for the boys. We're grateful for the friendships we've developed, especially with the Phipps family, and we hope that will continue."

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