April 27, 2010

Navy Players Relieved of Historic Burden

by Brian Delaney | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online

Patrick Moran, Navy's 6-foot-5 senior midfielder, says it was important to end the 36-game losing streak to Johns Hopkins "once and for all."

© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

Patrick Moran didn’t deny it. As the fourth quarter of Saturday’s Navy-Johns Hopkins came wore on, the 6-foot-5 senior midfielder’s mind kept returning to one singular focus: end the streak.

“I wanted to beat Hopkins,” he said, “and the streak once and for all. We just wanted to win that game more than anything.”

When Andy Warner scored with 10 seconds left in overtime, it gave Navy a 9-8 victory over the Blue Jays and the first win for the Midshipmen in the series since 1975: a span of 36 games.

The streak was going to end some day. Nothing lasts forever, especially in a series where, of the previous 11 games, six had been decided by one goal.

Each was plucked away by Hopkins.

But perhaps the way Navy went about thrusting that giant weight off its shoulders Saturday was most impressive.

Despite an abundance of energy, Navy walked off the field after 15 minutes trailing 5-0.

“We just needed one goal,” Moran said. “We needed one goal to get things rolling.”

Moran provided it. He scored 40 seconds into the second quarter, igniting a run of six unanswered goals. When Brendan Connors scored with 43 seconds left, Navy held a 6-5 lead and brought the 10,000-plus at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium to life.

The Midshipmen controlled possession in that frame, helped by six Hopkins turnovers and a decisive edge on the ground.

“I think our guys were really excited about coming out and we made some mistakes,” Navy coach Richie Meade said. “My big thing was look, let’s settle down, let’s get the next ground ball and play offense and see what we can do. I told them [after] it was the best quarter I’ve ever seen played in Navy-Marine Corps Stadium.

“And the first was probably the worst.”

Moran said the reaction was intense. Alums made their way to the locker room to congratulate – and thank – the players. Cell phones erupted with text messages and voice mails. And downtown Annapolis partied like it was, well, 1974.

As a senior, Moran knew the frustrations that surrounded the Hopkins history all too well. But he said he and his teammates were playing for a larger purpose: for the alums who never were able to stop the streak.

“I think it’s really been kind of under the surface here for many years,” Meade said. “There’s been a lot of bewilderment and confusion. We’ve been pretty good at lacrosse here for a while, and I felt like in the past we’ve played very, very well and not won. And the reason we didn’t win was because we were playing Johns Hopkins.”

Meade’s most important job this week is to re-focus his players toward the Patriot League tournament, which begins Friday at West Point. Top-seeded Army hosts Bucknell at 3 p.m., with Navy and Lafayette meet at approximately 5:45 p.m. at Michie Stadium. The championship will be decided at 3 p.m. Sunday.

Meade will get an assist in the motivation department from the 2010 schedule.

On March 12, the Leopards dealt Navy a 15-8 loss on a rainy evening in Easton, Pa.

It was, Meade said, by far the Midshipmen’s most lopsided loss this season – and that includes an 11-4 defeat against North Carolina.

“They freaking pounded us,” Meade said. “It’s not like it was a fluke goal in overtime that beat us. They got more ground balls, they got more faceoffs, they outhustled us; they knocked us around; they were tougher than us. So we’ve talked about that. We’ve got to be men and admit it. We didn’t play very well and they played real well.”

Of Navy’s seven losses, five have been decided by two goals or less – and four by a single goal.
Both Meade and Moran expect that kind of game this weekend.

“It’s basically one and done,” Moran said. “When you lose, you’re done.”

Coming off one of the most memorable victories in Navy’s proud program history, it will be interesting to see what Friday brings.

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