Mids Come Up Short in Patriot League Championship
May 2, 2010
WEST POINT, N.Y. — Patriot League Tournament MVP Tom Palesky turned away 12 potential Navy goals, including six in the second half, to lead the Army men’s lacrosse team (10-5) to an 11-8 Patriot League Championship win over Navy (7-8) Sunday afternoon at Michie Stadium in West Point. With the win, the Black Knights have earned the right to represent the Patriot League in the 2010 NCAA Championship set to begin in two weeks.
“I want to congratulate Army,” said 16th-year Navy head coach Richie Meade. “They played consistently well throughout the game. I think it was a game that was decided by mistakes and in the end, Army made fewer. They also capitalized on their extra-man opportunities (4 of 7), while we really struggled to score on our inside shots.
“It’s difficult to come from behind in a game like this,” added Meade. “You’re working on a day’s rest and both teams are expending a great deal of energy. There’s a point where the margin for error is very, very slight and Army was good enough to put us in that position.”
The first half began as a game of runs which then turned into a see-saw battle. The Mids scored the game’s first two goals, including a goal by senior attackman Brendan Connors (Bellmore, N.Y.) 49 seconds into the contest. Connors dodged Army defensive middie Alex Gephart, slipping inside to stuff a shot in from the right side of the crease.
The Mids pushed their lead to 2-0 when Army’s Bill Henderson slipped and junior attackman Andy Warner (Corning, N.Y.) took advantage by running in untouched for his fifth goal of the weekend.
Army, though, fought its way back with a pair of goals to knot the game by the end of the quarter. First-Team All-Patriot League attackman Jeremy Boltus scored an extra-man goal with Navy keeper RJ Wickham (Penn Yan, N.Y.) out of the goal. Wickham turned away a shot prior to and came out of the cage to fight for the ground ball. Boltus instead came up with the grounder and was able to send it past Navy defenseman Michael Hirsch (Schwenksville, Pa.) who tried to man the goal while Wickham was out. Meanwhile, the game-tying goal was scored on a Boltus-to-Garrett Thul goal 10 yards out with 1:20 remaining in the opening quarter.
Navy took the lead at 3-2 less than three minutes into the second quarter when senior midfielder Patrick Moran (Annapolis, Md.) send a hard crank shot from the right wing to the lower left side of the cage. Moran was held scoreless in the previous Army-Navy battle, the lone game in which he was held without a goal or an assist this season.
Army, however, evened the game at 3-3 when Boltus, found Rob McCallion anchored in front of the goal, and quick-sticked it in at 7:42.
Navy again grabbed the lead following a nice transition play that originated from a Wickham save. Wickham quickly sent a short outlet pass that was then zig-zagged through the field with junior midfielder Joe Lennon (Westminster, Md.) ultimately taking a 12-yard shot that sailed over the shoulder of Army keeper Tom Palesky with just over five minutes to go in the half.
The Black Knights got the final say before the break, scoring back-to-back goals in 1:30 of one another. Middie Devin Lynch caught a pass from Andrew Maisano on the run and was able to get his left hand free of Navy defensive middie Marty Gallagher (Wayne, Pa.) to score a five-yarder. Then with Navy defenseman Matt Vernam (Shoreham, N.Y.) falling down, Boltus was unselfish and instead of trying to take the shot, he made the extra pass to Thul sitting on the crease, giving Army its first lead of the game at the break.
“I felt like we never had the ball in the second quarter,” said Meade. “It was like we were playing defense the whole quarter. To be honest, only being down by one goal was kind of encouraging.”
Army extended its lead to two, 6-4, less than four minutes into the second half when attackman Tyler Oates fired off a lefty underhand shot to the left corner of the goal.
The Black Knights scored their four straight goal when, after both teams were flagged simultaneously for unnecessary roughness, Maisano fired off a five-yard shot to the right corner past Wickham.
“In my mind getting a two-goal cushion relaxed them and was a huge turning point in the game,” said Meade.
Taking an 8-4 lead with 5:49 left in the third quarter, Army took advantage of a slash called against Hirsch. Army used some nifty passing as McCallion sent a short pass to senior attackman Tyler Seymour who easily rippled the net. For Seymour, it was his fifth goal of the weekend after pumping in four against Bucknell in the Patriot League semis.
After more than 18 minutes without a goal, the Mids finally got their fifth goal on the scoreboard. The Black Knights were whistled for failure to advance and rookie midfielder Jay Mann (Cockeysville, Md.) quickly picked up the ball at mid-field and sent the pass to long pole Zack Schroeder (Deer Park, N.Y.) who ran with the ball for 10 yards before scoring his his second goal of the year. The goal trimmed Army’s lead to three, 8-5, with 1:43 remaining in the third quarter.
Connors scored his second goal of the game thanks to a deflection by Palesky. Second-year midfielder Nikk Davis (Cockeysville, Md.) was looking to pass from behind the cage when Palesky reached up and got a stick on the ball, sending it into Connors’ stick. Connors quickly shot it in for his 20th goal of the year, narrowing the Black Knights’ lead to two, 8-6, with 12:56 to go.
Army countered with back-to-back goals in the span of just over a minute as Thul and sophomore middie Sean O’Sullivan scoring from nearly the exact same spot to give the Black Knights a 10-6 lead with 8:12 left.
The Mids made a run at the end, closing to within two, after senior Evan Sullivan (Westfield, N.J.) pounded in an extra-man goal off an assist from Warner and 32 seconds later Moran pumped in his second of the day on a side-winder from 15 yards out.
Army capped its win when Boltus scored an open-net goal with 11 seconds remaining to lead the Black Knights to their first Patriot League Tournament win with an 11-8 decision over five-time champion Navy.
“We had a tough season and though we lost to Army and Lafayette, we had a chance to beat both of them in the tournament and go to the NCAAs,” said Warner. “But we fell short today. We put ourselves in too far of a hole.”
Navy put three players on the Patriot League All-Tournament Team — Warner, who turned in five goals and one assist; sophomore faceoff specialist Logan West (Berlin, Md.), who won 33 of the 48 draws he took while also picking up 11 grounders; and junior defensive middie Brian Striffler (Virginia Beach, Va.), who grabbed five ground balls, caused two turnovers and played two solid games on the wings of faceoffs.
The loss was just the second by the Midshipmen all-time in Patriot League Tournament play as Navy has posted an 11-2 record en route to making six Patriot League Tournament finals appearances.
Meanwhile, it’s the first time Navy has dropped back-to-back games to its arch rival since the 1996 and ‘97 seasons. Having faced one another twice in a season just six times (1978 and ‘81 in the NCAA Tournament, 2005, ‘06, ‘07 and ‘10 in the Patriot League Tournament), it’s the first time Army has managed to beat the Mids twice in a single season.
Navy concludes its year with a 7-8 record, falling below .500 for the first time since 2003. The Mids will also miss making the NCAA Tournament for the first time since their magical National Championship run in 2004. Navy owned the third-longest NCAA Tournament streak (along with Cornell) behind Johns Hopkins (38 straight) and Maryland (7).
2010 Patriot League All-Tournament Team
Jeremy Boltus, Army
Bill Henderson, Army
Tyler Seymour, Army
Tom Palesky, Army (MVP)
Brian Striffler, Navy
Andy Warner, Navy
Logan West, Navy
Jake Clarke, Bucknell
Alex Lyons, Bucknell
Vinny DePasquale, Lafayette
Matt Mersky, Lafayette
### Go Navy ###