Rees’ Overtime Goal Leads Navy to Win Over Army, Mids Secure Top Seed In Patriot League Championship
WEST POINT, N.Y. — Casey Rees’ (Sykesville, Md.) fake flip worked to perfection as the sophomore midfielder got his hands free and punched in the game-winning goal 38 seconds into overtime to lead the ninth-ranked Navy men’s lacrosse team (9-2, 7-1 Patriot League) to an electrifying 11-10 victory over archrival Army West Point (8-4, 5-2 PL) Saturday afternoon at Michie Stadium. Navy has now won seven in a row for the first time since opening the 2007 season 8-0.
The win not only marked the Mids’ second straight Star Game victory over the Black Knights, it also assured Navy at least a share of the Patriot League regular-season title and the No. 1 seed in the Patriot League Tournament set for the week of April 25.
“It was a great battle,” said Navy fifth-year head coach Rick Sowell. “It felt like we were playing uphill for most of the game. I think we played more defense today than we have in the last two games combined. But a lot of credit goes to our guys for hanging in there and stepping up.”
“We focused throughout the week on how to handle adversity,” said Navy co-captain Patrick Keena. “We understand that there will be ebbs and flows in a game of this magnitude and we had to be prepared to handle it. We needed to stay locked in. We are happy to get the win today.”
The two teams traded goals over the opening quarter before Navy went on a 3-0 run and opened up its biggest lead of the game at 4-2 with 9:39 remaining in the opening half.
Army, however, went on a 4-0 run over the final 6:23 that featured bookend goals by Ted Glesener to give the Black Knights a 6-4 advantage at the half.
Navy fell behind by three just over a minute into the second half when Navy keeper John Connors (Sr. / Bellmore, N.Y.) was unable to corral the ball after a save and Army rookie Nate Jones swooped in and grabbed the loose ball and fired in the doorstep goal.
Just 46 seconds later, Navy answered with back-to-back goals scored just 28 seconds apart. Senior Kevin Wendel (East Islip, N.Y.) used his speed to beat his defender and find the seam from 12 yards out, while fellow senior Patrick Keena (A / Vienna, Va.) slipped his defender from the left side of the cage and tip-toed the crease to get the Mids to within one at 7-6.
Army, however, answered just 11 seconds later when junior Dan Grabher won the faceoff and sprinted to the goal where he stuck his second goal of the day to push the Black Knights’ lead back to two with 12:33 to go in the third period.
Wendel again stepped to the challenge and sent his shot through the legs of Army keeper AJ Barretto, triggering a 3-0 run by the Mids. Following Wendel’s goal, Rees knotted the game with an eight-yard goal with the timer on. Navy took its first lead (9-8) since midway through the second quarter when Keena wrapped around the left side of the cage and found the side of the far post with 2:43 left in the quarter.
Goals by Glesener and senior Shea Mullins gave Army a 10-9 lead with under seven minutes to go.
Keena, who finished the game with a team-high 3 goals and 2 assists, knotted the game for the sixth time when he wrapped around the right side of the cage and found the back of the net with 5:40 left in regulation.
Navy had a handful of looks over the last two-plus minutes, but were unable to capitalize. Meanwhile, sophomore defenseman Hiram Carter (Apopka, Fla.) came up with a huge caused turnover, stripping Cole Johnson with five seconds to go in regulation and forcing overtime.
While Sowell went to his bag of tricks and called for the fake flip, calling upon Rees as his go-to player, Navy first needed to get possession. Sophomore Joe Varello (Kings Park, N.Y.) stepped up and won perhaps the biggest faceoff of his career to give Navy the ball. The Mids set up their offense and put the called upon play into action. Rees raced past the short stick midfielder and targeted his shot 38 seconds into OT for the win.
“We like the fake flip and I knew we hadn’t used it all day,” said Sowell. “I thought we would draw it up and see how they would react. Fortunately they bit. When Casey gets his hands free, it’s hard to stop his shot. He’s a guy that has had to grow up quickly and he’s done just that. There was no hesitation in my mind that he was the right one to take the shot.”
Keena, Rees and Wendel all contributed hat tricks, while second-year attackman Jack Ray (Wyckoff, N.Y.) scored two of Navy’s first three goals in the game. Keena’s five-point performance pushed his career total to 98, needing just two points to become the 32nd player in program history to reach 100. Meanwhile, with his two assists on the afternoon, he moved into a tie for 13th alongside former teammate Sam Jones on the Mids’ career assists list with 59.
Rees has scored hat tricks in both of the Star Games the last two seasons.
Connors anchored the defense with a season-best 14-save performance, while short stick middie John Trainor (Northport, N.Y.) posted three of the Mids’ nine caused turnovers. All-American defenseman and Tewaaraton Award Watch List member Chris Fennell (Jr. / Milford, N.J.) held Cole Johnson to just one goal - the game’s opening goal. Johnson stands #12 nationally in goals per game (2.73).
“This wasn’t a pretty game, but at the end of the day we scrapped,” said Fennell. “Both sides of the ball and our faceoff guys really stepped up at the end of the game.”
Navy narrowly edged Army in the faceoff game, winning 13 of the 25 draws. Brady Dove (Jr. / Stevensville, Md.) won 7 of the 16 draws he took, while Varello came in in relief and won 6 of the 9 faceoffs.
“Varello was able to step in towards the end of the game and he won some and slowed them down on the ones he didn’t win. He did a great job of stepping in there at a big, big moment.”
Five players accounted for Army’s 10 goals, including Jones and Glesener who led the way with three goals apiece.
Navy will have little time to enjoy the victory as it will travel to College Park on Tuesday to face fourth-ranked Maryland at Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium. Faceoff is slated for 7:00 pm and will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network with Mark Dixon and Joe Beninati calling the action. The game will also be carried on 1430 AM / 99.9 FM WNAV with Pete Medhurst on the call.
### Go Navy ###