The Navy women's lacrosse team needed a win over Lehigh Saturday to host the Patriot League Tournament later this week, but the Mountain Hawks spoiled those plans with early draw possession, efficient shooting and some big saves late in the game.
The Midshipmen held only a brief first-half lead in a game that was tied five times before Lehigh took the lead for good six minutes into the second half en route to a 15-13 victory before a crowd of 1,316 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis.
Although Lehigh (10-6) finishes in a 5-1 tie with Colgate for the Patriot League regular-season title, Colgate will host the tournament based on the head-to-head tie breaker, having beaten Lehigh in their league opener last month.
In the tournament semifinal Thursday in Hamilton, N.Y., the third-seeded Midshipmen (12-5, 4-2) will get another crack at second-seed Lehigh, a team they also lost to during the last two regular seasons but went on to beat in the tournament. Still, that wasn't much consolation Saturday.
Navy struggled with several aspects of its game, especially shooting and goalkeeping. The Midshipmen outshot Lehigh, 34-22 but put only 23 shots on goal.
"We were off a little bit, shot-wise," Navy senior Caitlin Mandrin Hill said. "We could have had a lot better shot selection, but that just shows we had the opportunities and once we finish, it can be an entirely different game."
The Mountain Hawks won the first five draws to help build a 4-2 lead in less than 10 minutes. The game was tied four times in the first half before Lehigh scored three in a row.
The Midshipmen tied the game at 5 when Kathy Young fed Mandrin Hill with 12:33 to go, but the Hawks took the lead back when Navy goalie Michelle Verbeeck dropped the ball into the goal.
Verbeeck had just save a shot by Lauren Dykstra, but Dykstra, the Patriot League's all-time leading scorer, was credited with the goal. That set off a three-goal spurt as Dykstra scored again and Julie McBrien fed Anna Patterson for an 8-5 Lehigh lead with 3:34 to go in the half.
The Midshipmen got one back on Young's goal before the half and then Aimee Gennaro and Jasmine DePompeo, who finished with five goals, opened the second half with consecutive goals to tie at 8.
Lehigh coach Jill Redfern then switched goalies, bringing on MaryLeah DiNisco, who played the final 27 minutes, making seven saves, including three point-blank stops in the last 10 minutes.
Allison Thomas' free-position goal gave the Mountain Hawks the lead for good at 9-8 with 24:35 left. She scored again after Megan Kelly's goal to put Lehigh up 11-8 six minutes later.
Navy never again got closer than within two.
"We got some really nice looks at the cage and we were able to finish them," said Redfern, whose team played without second-leading scorer Kelly Draper, who was recovering from surgery. "For our attack to find its rhythm and produce that many goals with different personnel shows some resilience, toughness."
The Mountain Hawks scored on 68 percent of their shots and Navy's goalies managed just two saves, something coach Cindy Timchal said has been a problem all season, even though they had allowed more than 11 goals only to ranked opponents Northwestern and William & Mary.
"Our goaltenders struggle this year and when they're struggling, we have to finish on the other end," Timchal said. "Lehigh is averaging 14 goals a game. A better defensive effort, more solid goaltending and a better shooting effort and we would have had a better go of it."
Lehigh 8 7 -- 15
Navy 6 7 -- 13
Goals: L—Dykstra 4, Thomas 3, McBrien 2, Kelly 2, Tatios 2, Patterson 2; N—DePompeo 5, Mandrin Hill 3, Gennaro 2, Nietsch, K.Young, Coughlin. Assists: L—McBrien 2, Kindall, Patterson, Thomas, Murray; N—Mandrin Hill 2, Pompeo, K.Young. Saves: L—Fitzpatrick 3, DiNiosco 7; N—Verbeeck 2, Ponchione 0.