April 17, 2010

Army Tops Navy in Controversial Finish

by Gary Lambrecht | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online

BALTIMORE - Even though it has happened so infrequently while he has coached the men’s lacrosse team at Navy, any loss to Army hits Richie Meade hard and deep and sticks with him endlessly.

Yesterday at M&T Bank Stadium, Meade and his Midshipmen picked up a collective case of heartburn, while absorbing a 7-6 loss they won’t forget, especially the painful sequence that unfolded in the closing seconds.

With 37 seconds left, Navy sophomore midfielder Nikk Davis appeared to tie the contest at 7-7. He beat Army long-stick midfielder Matt Hurley on the left wing, dashed to the goal, and scored as he was pushed into the crease by Hurley, who also sent Davis crashing into the left post.

But wait. As Davis and Army goalie Tom Palesky were sprawled out in the cage, the officials had their own, unpredictable take. They flagged Hurley for an illegal push and waved off the goal, since Davis was in the crease. And after Palesky deflected Evan Sullivan’s extra-man shot with 10 seconds left, the Mids were left to sort through the confusion.

The whole weird ending to the 88th Army-Navy meeting left Meade mystified. It was tough enough watching Navy shoot a paltry 6-for-38 while controlling the faceoff circle (10-for-16) and the ground ball battle for a change. It was tough enough watching senior midfielder leading scorer Patrick Moran shoot 0-for-11, including only two shots on cage. It was tough enough to watch the Mids whiff on four of five, extra-man chances.

It was tough enough watching Navy position itself to beat its archrival and Patriot League competitor, after Army attackmen Jeremy Boltus and Garrett Thul had combined for five goals and seven points and had sparked a four-goal, second-quarter outburst that gave Army a 5-3 halftime lead.

But, as Meade digests his second loss to Army in 16 games dating to 1998 - and his second loss in the last three meetings between the service academies - he will be replaying the game-tying goal that wasn’t.

“I didn’t get an explanation, so I don’t have an explanation. When I looked at the replay, I felt the goal was good,” Meade said. “The [ball] was in the goal before Nikk landed in the crease. Once I saw the flag, and the ball went in…usually when you see that flag, it’s a goal, because [the scorer] was pushed into the crease. We lost to Army, so it doesn’t matter what the explanation is.”

Davis, who wound up leading Navy with two goals, was at a loss to explain how he didn’t end up with at least a hat trick. After barreling into Palesky and the cage, Davis was certain the contest was tied.

“I didn’t realize it wasn’t tied until they announced it over the speakers,” Davis said.

For Navy (5-7, 4-2 in Patriot League), the loss marked a missed opportunity to earn the top seed and host the conference tournament in two weeks. Army (6-5, 4-0) can earn the top seed by beating Lafayette on Tuesday.

Army ultimately won this game because its top scorers performed the way they should in a game of this magnitude. Boltus, the junior who came into the contest with a team-high 40 points, scored three goals, including a five-yarder that gave the Black Knights a 7-6 edge with 4:29 left, following Navy goals by Joe Lennon and Davis. Thul, the slick freshman who leads Army in goals, scored twice. Each had an assist.

Boltus and Thul each scored during a pivotal second quarter, during which Army shot 4-for-9 and took a 5-3 halftime lead.

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