April 6, 2012

Maryland's Holmes Returns to Form Against Navy

by Gary Lambrecht | LaxMagazine.com

Curtis Holmes, who has battled injury most of the season, won 15 of 20 faceoffs for Maryland on Friday night as the Terps ended a two-game skid with a win over Navy.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

The 12th-ranked Maryland Terrapins needed a win badly, following two consecutive losses to Atlantic Coast Conference opponents. On Friday night, one of Maryland's longest-running rivals showed up at Byrd Stadium and helped the Terps heal in a big way.

In the 87th meeting between Navy and Maryland, the only thing preventing the Terps from jumping all over the Midshipmen early was Navy senior goalie R.J. Wickham. But once Maryland began to dominate possession, abuse Navy's overmatched defensive midfielders and find their shooting spots, neither Wickham nor any other Mid could do anything about it.

The result was a 13-6 rout by the Terps, who whipped Navy by the widest margin since dropping the Mids with a 21-7 blowout in 1998. Maryland also scored the most goals against Navy since that same game.

Maryland (6-3) stopped a two-game losing streak, and dealt Navy (5-5) its second straight defeat with an effort that should have yielded a more lopsided result. The Terps out-shot Navy by a whopping, 52-18 margin. Behind a strong outing from junior faceoff specialist Curtis Holmes – who looked rejuvenated after battling a back ailment all season – Maryland won 18 of 23 draws.

Only an 11-save effort in the first half by Wickham, who finished with 18 stops, kept Navy temporarily close. But Maryland easily extended its 6-5 halftime lead in the third quarter, when the Mids failed to win a faceoff or generate offense any other way. Navy managed one second-half goal – credited to midfielder Pat Durkin but actually a result of an errant scoop in the crease by Maryland defender Michael Ehrhardt.

And Navy unraveled on defense, where short-stick midfielders Cade Morris and Jay Mann struggled mightily to stop Maryland's dodgers. The Terps, who shot just 6-for-29 in the first half, landed six of 18 shots in the third quarter and opened up an insurmountable, 11-5 lead.

Senior attackman Joe Cummings led the Terps with three goals and two assists. Attackmen Owen Blye and Billy Gribbin scored two goals apiece. Senior midfielder Drew Snider also scored twice. Sophomore attackman Tucker Hull led Navy with one goal and three assists.

"We knew there would be some bumps in the road, but we're sticking together," said Maryland coach John Tillman, referring to the Terps' back-to-back losses to North Carolina and Virginia.

"I was frustrated after that first half. We wanted to shoot to certain spots, and we didn't stick to the plan at times. I just told our guys [at halftime] what's done is done. We're generating shots, we've just got to stick them. But we're playing with fire here [with Navy still close]. Take a deep breath. You're winning."

Five different Maryland players scored in the pivotal third quarter, and Navy's four turnovers didn't help the Mids' possession woes.

The brightest spot for Maryland might have been Holmes, who entered the contest having won just 50 percent of his 132 faceoff attempts during his injury-plagued season. Holmes was back on his game against Navy's Logan West.

Holmes won 15 of his 20 chances, and kept the Terps' offense buzzing around the Navy goal. Through three quarters, Maryland had taken 47 shots and allowed just 12. Terps goalie Niko Amato made only five saves.

"It's been tough. I've been battling some injuries throughout the season," Holmes said. "Anything I can do to make the defense's job easier and give Niko the night off – that's my job. I was quick on the whistle tonight, and started to figure out what was working best against their guys.

"We had a tough time in the first half. Navy is always known to be a tough, blue-collar, fight-to-the-death kind of team. We knew we had to finish our shots in the second half, and we still felt confident we would."

In a first half that featured three ties, two lead changes and lots of transition play, Navy hung around the Terps.

The Mids scored three straight on goals by Sam Jones, Nikk Davis and Hull to take a 3-2 lead, then surrendered three straight to Maryland, who took back a 5-3 lead with 6:18 left in the half. Then, Navy attackman Taylor Reynolds finished a fast break, and following sparkling, back-to-back saves by Wickham, Navy freshman midfielder Gabe Voumard beat Landon Carr on a nice spin move and scored from in close to tie it at 5-5 with 1:20 left.

Blye then broke the tie by blowing past a Navy defender behind the net and scoring from the left side of the crease with 12 seconds to go in the half. Navy then caught a break. Landon Carr's goal with one second remaining was taken off the board, after Maryland called a timeout with about seven seconds left, but was given the timeout with three seconds left.

Maryland cleaned everything up after the break, and broke the Mids in the process.

"We didn't help [ourselves] in the third quarter by turning it over like we did. It was a make-it-take-it game for a while, and they are just too good to give them that many chances," said Navy coach Rick Sowell, whose team faces archrival Army next week and has scored once in their last 60 minutes of second-half action.

"We're 5-5. We're back in our [Patriot] league. It's Army next. Need we say more?" Sowell added. "We've still got a lot to play for. We can't spend too much time moping about this."

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