ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Senior goalkeeper RJ Wickham (Penn Yan, N.Y.) turned away 18 shots, while sophomore attackman Sam Jones (Annapolis, Md.) pitched in three goals and an assist as the Navy men's lacrosse team (6-6) dominated sixth-ranked Johns Hopkins (9-3), 8-2, Saturday afternoon at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. The six-goal victory by the Mids marked their largest margin of victory in the series since 1965 when Navy scored a 15-6 win over the Blue Jays on their home field.
"These guys bounced back from a very emotional loss against Army last week and to turn around seven days later and beat Johns Hopkins says an awful lot about the young men I've had the pleasure of coaching this year," said first-year Navy head coach Rick Sowell. "My heart is filled with joy. I'm so happy for the seniors.
"I thought we came out from the opening whistle and took it to them, but again, I think all of this goes back to the character of this team."
Wickham was the cornerstone to a phenomenal defensive effort by the Midshipmen. He recorded a season-high tying 18 saves, including seven in the third quarter and multiple point-blank shots throughout the contest, as he became the first Navy goaltender to beat Hopkins twice since Kelly Award winner Dennis Wedekind, who claimed wins over the Blue Jays in 1963, `64 and `65.
Johns Hopkins entered the game averaging 10.55 goals per game, however, Navy's defense stymied the Blue Jays for the first 25-plus minutes (25:31) of the game and again for better than 31 minutes (31:45) between the second and fourth quarters to hold Hopkins to its fewest goals in a game since April 2, 1966, when Princeton dealt it a 7-1 loss. Meanwhile, the two goals are the fewest the Blue Jays have scored in the series with Navy since May 9, 1925, when the Mids earned an 8-1 win in Annapolis.
"What can I say, RJ has been rock solid for most of the year," added Sowell. "Absolutely (he took away a lot of goals), he made it look easy. It was an outstanding performance by RJ."
"Our defense was great today," said Wickham, who stands sixth on Navy's career saves list with 479 saves. "I really couldn't ask for more out of my teammates. I stole a couple, but today was all about the defense as a whole."
Navy opened the game on a three-goal run, while shutting out Hopkins over a quarter of play for the first time since 2010. Second-year midfielder Pat Durkin (Germantown, Md.) scored the first goal of the afternoon at 7:52 when he positioned himself behind the cage and drew Hopkins keeper Pierce Bassett out of the goal. With the goal left wide open, sophomore attackman Tucker Hull (Charlotte, N.C.) fed Durkin who curled around the right side of the goal and shot the ball in as Bassett's attempt to recover failed.
Just over two minutes later, the Mids took a 2-0 lead when Jones sent senior co-captain Taylor Reynolds (Babylon, N.Y.) a pass and Reynolds whipped in his lefty shot over Bassett's right shoulder.
Navy took a 3-0 advantage with 19.7 second remaining in the opening quarter when senior midfielder Nikk Davis (Cockeysville, Md.) curled around the right side of the cage and found a seam past his two defenders and Bassett.
Hopkins finally got on the board with 4:29 left in the second quarter when junior Zach Palmer threaded his shot past Wickham as fell into the crease on extra man.
Navy, who has struggled over the last several weeks in its second-half play, came out with the same intensity it played with in the first half. Jones sparked a five-goal run by the Mids at the 10:01 mark in the third, as he took a pass from rookie Gabe Voumard (Cape May, N.J.) and stuck it in from point-blank range. While Jones was responsible for three of the five goals during the run, sophomore midfielder Erik Hoffstadt (Dover, Del.) scored his sixth goal of the year when he came around the left side of the goal and snuck his shot in right before being leveled by his defender. Additionally, Durkin punched in his second goal of the contest.
The Blue Jays, who had not scored since the 4:29 mark in the second period, scored their final goal of the game with 2:44 on an unassisted Greg Edmonds strike.
Navy, who has now won two of the last three over Hopkins, has claimed each of the last two games played at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
The day began with a pregame ceremony honoring Navy's seven senior players, thanking them for their contributions over the last four years. The day would end with that same class becoming the first since 1974 to walk away with two victories over its longtime rival. The Class of 2012 was in its second year when Andy Warner punched in the game-winning goal in overtime in 2010 which snapped a 36-game losing streak to the Blue Jays. Some wondered if that streak would rear its ugly head after last year's 14-5 drubbing in Baltimore. But the Class of 2012 helped quiet those who questioned, leaving instead a foundation for the future.
"I'd say 99.9 percent of the people thought we'd get smoked like we did last year," said Navy co-captain Taylor Reynolds. "To come out and battle like we did, I couldn't be more honored to play with a team with the character we showed today and throughout the year."
"This one is for the seniors," said Jones. I'm so appreciative for their leadership and it's nice to send them out on a win."