April 30, 2010

Navy Stops Bickering, Gets Back on Track

by Ken McMillan | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online | PL Semifinals Blog

Patrick Moran scored four goals to lead Navy to an 11-9, come-from-behind win Friday over Lafayette in the Patriot League semifinals.

© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

WEST POINT, N.Y. -- Navy lacrosse has developed an uncomfortable habit of falling behind only to respond positively, but one has to wonder how long the Midshipmen can keep this up.

Lafayette stormed out to a 6-2 halftime lead in Friday’s semifinal playoff at Michie Stadium and it looked like the third-seeded Leopards were primed for a repeat of their 15-8 domination of the Midshipmen back in March.

The bickering which sabotaged Navy’s play in the first half disappeared and the joy of offense was realized once again. The Midshipmen shocked Lafayette with five consecutive goals in the third quarter, and opened the fourth with three more to seize control in an 11-9 victory.

Andy Warner scored four goals, with Patrick Moran and Ryan O’Leary each adding a pair for second-seeded Navy (7-7), which will play top-seeded and service academy rival Army in Sunday’s 3 p.m. title match. Navy is now 11-1 all-time in Patriot tourney play.

The joy of advancing to its sixth Patriot tourney final in seven seasons was tempered by the realization that Navy has to get off to better starts.

“We didn’t come out mentally prepared,’’ Warner said. “That’s what our team has been doing … we start out slow. That has to change if we want to be successful.’’

Navy was coming off one of its most historic wins, a 9-8 overtime thriller over No. 17 Johns Hopkins on April 24, a game in which the Midshipmen went for 5-0 in the opening quarter before responding with six second-quarter goals.

In this semifinal playoff, Lafayette scored twice late in the first quarter for a 3-1 lead. O’Leary got a goal back for Navy but the Leopards responded with goals by Colin Serling, Matt Mersky (the second of his four) and Tom Perini for a commanding 6-2 lead.

“I thought in the first half we were playing pretty tense," Warner said. “We were yelling back and forth at each other because we didn’t think we were doing the right things.’’

The Midshipmen learned something at halftime because they came out playing more inspired ball in the second half. Warner scored twice in a nine-second span and Navy was delivered a “team” goal when Lafayette defenseman Paul Hammer put the ball in his own net while trying to pass to a teammate. A goal by Brendan Connors tied the score at 6 and Warner gave Navy its first lead with 7:18 left in the third.

“In the second half, we were having more fun, shooting the ball when we were open, passing the ball when the pass needs to be made,’’ Warner said. “We were having fun out there. We got after them.’’

“I just thought we were thinking too much,’’ Navy coach Richie Meade said of the offensive woes early. “We had turnovers. We weren’t pinning our ears back and going after them. Once we started going after them and played more physically like we’re more used to, things turned around.’’

Lafayette (8-6) lost two of its starters – attackman Stefan Bauer and midfielder Steve Serling, the league’s offensive player of the year – to injury during the match, forcing coach Terry Mangan to scramble his lineups, and whatever momentum the Leopards had built up early on was lost.

Lafayette gave up goals to Moran, Joe Lennon and Warner inside the first 10 minutes of the final quarter. Mersky scored twice in the final five minutes but Navy was able to run out the clock.

“Sometimes it takes time to adjust,’’ said Lafayette’s Matt Mersky, who scored four goals.
“We talked about coming out of the locker room with a lot of energy and taking Navy’s best shot but we didn’t have our feet under us,’’ Mangan said. “It took us time to regroup and Navy struck early there.’’

The loss put an end to an historic season for Lafayette (8-6). The Leopards held a top-20 poll position for seven weeks, and were making their first appearance in the Patriot playoffs, first held in 2004.

“It’s a one-game season once you get to the playoffs,’’ said Lafayette goalie Vinny DePasquale, who made 11 saves. “We came out on the short end tonight. What happened to Steve and Stefan, there is no way you can prepare for that. You can’t lose your two best players on the field. It took the wind out of our sails a bit.

“It is definitely a tough loss to swallow,’’ DePasquale added.

For Meade, this result was an affirmation of the progress Navy has made since that March 12 loss at Lafayette.

“Coming into this game, it was a challenge to see where we were and how far we had come since that night,’’ Meade said. “I think we’ve come a long way to be able to stop (Lafayette) and come back.’’

Meade expects another close battle with Army on Sunday.

 “I think it’s going to be a very tough game,’’ Meade said. “The game last time was kind of a street fight.
They got the better of us in the second quarter and that was basically the game. Neither team could get much of an advantage. It was a very highly competitive game in terms of effort by both teams.
“Obviously we haven’t lost to Army a lot but they were very committed the day we played them. They played with great unity and intensity. I’ve been very impressed with the Army team. They got beat by Hofstra 17-2 and haven’t lost since then. They are a very close team. They play with a lot of passion and respect and care for each other so it’s going to be a tough game.’’

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