April 15, 2013

Washburn: Army-Navy a Rivalry Unlike Any Other

by Evan Washburn | LaxMagazine.com

Army midfielder John Glesener (above) and attackman Garrett Thul combined for seven goals against Navy. The Black Knights beat the Midshipmen for an unprecedented fifth straight time.

I was lucky enough to call my second Army-Navy game on Saturday, and I again walked away thinking this is a game unlike the rest.

Where I see the biggest difference is in the language used leading up to game day. Most conversations with coaches and players heading into a game are a mixture of coach speak and strategy. This is not the case when it comes to Army-Navy.

Here are some of the most powerful things said leading into Saturday's game:

"This game is a benchmark for a season."

"You eat, dream and sleep Navy, it really does consume you."

"Navy is always in the back of my mind, even when I'm preparing for another team."

"A win over Army can change the perspective of our season going forward."

"We show up everyday to beat Army... It's a different feeling, you know it is going to be a fight."

By now, you most likely know that Army won its fifth consecutive game against Navy 14-7 on Saturday afternoon at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Md. The five straight wins are unprecedented in this rivalry. The Army Class of 2013 is the only group in program history to beat Navy five times.

Despite the score, this game had all the trappings traditional to this rivalry. There were 14 penalties, highlight reel goals, passion from both benches that gave the feel of a championship game, and at game's end, the respect of both teams as their alma maters played. The announced crowd of 12,103 was the largest attendance for a non-doubleheader men's game this season.

The way the game played out was indicative of where the two programs are and where they are going.

The Black Knights showed a dynamic and balanced offense with nine different goal scorers, led by Garrett Thul and John Glesener, who combined for seven. On the defensive end, Brendan Buckley continued to show that he should be at least a second-team All-American pick at season's end, anchoring a defense that held Navy scoreless for more than 16 minutes in the second half.

The brightest star for the Black Knights may have just been freshman faceoff specialist Alex Daly, who went an impressive 86 percent from the stripe.

Daly's performance highlights the bright future for the Knights of the Hudson. Army has one of the youngest rosters in Division I men's lacrosse, and Saturday the underclassmen showed no fear in the season's most important game.

The sophomore attackman Glesener had seven points, sophomore midfielder Alex Newsome had one goal, freshman attackman Will Mazzone had one goal and one assist, freshman attackman Tim Coll had one goal, freshman midfielder Jimbo Moore chipped in an assist and in the cage sophomore Sam Somers continued his strong season with seven saves.

Look, this team still has a lot to play for this season, with a shot at the Patriot League tournament title still on the horizon. But with a deep and youthful roster, coach Joe Alberici has a great shot of not only extending that five-game winning streak over Navy, but taking Army back to the NCAA tournament as a contender in years to come.

For Navy, Saturday afternoon was another disappointment in what has turned into a bad season in Annapolis.

The offense could not find a way to penetrate Army's physical man-to-man defense, relying heavily on isolation matchups that they just could not win. Defensively, the Midshipmen did the one thing you can't do when facing Army — they let Thul and Glesener go off for seven goals.

There were a few bright spots for Navy.

There was a three-goal run in the first half that cut the Army lead to one and gave the home crowd hope. The Midshipmen only turned the ball over seven times, after averaging 18 turnovers all season. Junior attackman Sam Jones went over the 100-point mark for his career and attackman Tucker Hull recorded a hat trick in what has been a disappointing year for the preseason All-American.

Navy has more questions than answers going forward.

There is talent on this roster that will remain and second-year coach Rick Sowell is in the middle of bringing his players to Annapolis, which is a process for any new coach. But expectations will remain high for this program each season, despite not having a winning record in five years.

The Army-Navy game stands on its own. This is a fact proven by the men who play in it each season. It is a game where legacies are made and, after the 92nd meeting, the Black Knights have 12 months of bragging rights over the Midshipmen.

Stock Up, Stock Down

Albany — UP

There has been no letdown for the Great Danes after their win over Johns Hopkins last week. The offense is lethal, combining for 45 goals in their last two wins, over Hartford and Vermont. Albany is shooting a blistering 37 percent from the field and has won five straight.

Villanova — UP

The Wildcats' 5-6 record is not indicative of their talent level, and they are now stacking up wins. Villanova has won three straight games and is 4-0 in the Big East with marquee wins over Syracuse and St. John's.

Princeton — DOWN

A loss to Syracuse is understandable, but dropping an Ivy League game to Dartmouth is unacceptable. The Tigers are 7-4 and 2-2 in the Ivy League.

Penn — DOWN

The Quakers were hot early this season with a 5-1 record and wins over Duke, Princeton and Lehigh. They have now lost three of their last four.

Evan Washburn, the former Delaware defenseman and current CBS Sports Network and NBC Sports Network lacrosse commentator, provides a column each Monday during the NCAA Division I men's lacrosse season. Follow Evan on Twitter @EvanWashburn.

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