Army vs. Navy
April 30, 2006
The Game Story:
HAMILTON, N.Y. -- The eighth-ranked Navy lacrosse team outscored Army, 5-1, in the third quarter to break open a tight game and breeze to its third straight Patriot League Tournament title with an 8-5 victory over 17th-ranked Army at Colgate's Tyler Field. The win improves Navy's record to 11-3 overall and clinches a third consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance, beginning Saturday, May 13, at campus sites across the country.

The win was the 11th in a row over Army, dating back to 1997, and the second in a row over the Black Knights in the Patriot League Tournament title game. Navy won last year's meeting, 15-8, in Annapolis.

For the second straight game, the Navy defense was the story, holding Army to just five goals and 23 shots. In the two team's previous meeting, an 11-10 Navy win, the Black Knights scored 10 goals on 40 shots, both season highs by an opponent.

"They really hurt us in the first game in transition, so our goal was shutting that off today," said Navy head coach Richie Meade, who won his 99th career game at Navy. "Two games in 48 hours is tough to play, but we really stepped up and gave a solid effort today."

In the Patriot League Tournament's two games, Navy limited its foes to just seven goals on 42 shots combined.

"I can't say enough about the defense," said Navy senior co-captain and All-American goalie Matt Russell. "They definitely make my job easy back there. They played great all weekend and were very focused. Our big goal today was to just play settled and not give Army any unsettled situations. We knew if we played in settled situations that we would be in good shape."

The Navy defense was highlighted by sophomore Jordan DiNola's (Ballston Lake, N.Y.) performance against Army All-American John Walker. DiNola held Walker to just one goal on only four shots.

The Navy close defense also starts junior Andrew Dow (Hauppauge, N.Y.) and sophomore Brendan Teague (Annapolis, Md.) as well as several other underclassmen that contribute. Navy's short-stick defensive midfielders, freshman Geoff Leone (Massapequa, N.Y.) and senior Ward Hackett (Oxford, Md.) also had strong tournaments. Leone picked up three ground balls on the day and forced numerous turnovers.

"That position is one of the hardest on the team to play, and they had the role of filling the shoes of Clipper Lennon and Dan Harris," said Russell. "They have played great all season. They play positionally well and they go get the ball when its on the ground. It really helps to mold the defense.

"People thought coming into the year that our defense was going to be down, because it is so young," added Russell. "But the guys playing now gained some great experience playing behind Mitch (Hendler) and Mike (Felber) last year. They have talent, but they weren't going to beat out those guys. We haven't missed a beat this year."

Navy struggled in the first half as both teams dragged to a 2-2 halftime tie. Matt Scheel gave Army a 1-0 lead six minutes into the game, but Matt Guido (North Caldwell, N.J.) knotted the game at 1-1 with 6:14 to play in the first quarter on an assist from Jon Birsner (Levittown, N.Y.).

Both teams then went over 15 minutes without scoring a goal until Navy junior Tommy Wallin (Mountain Lakes, N.J.) found the back of the net at the 5:47 mark for a 2-1 Navy cushion. Army responded with a Kevin LoRusso goal three minutes later to send the teams into the locker rooms tied at two.

"We played well in the first half, but just didn't stick our shots," said Meade. "There was some pressure in the third period to step up and make some plays and I thought we came out very focused."

Navy opened the second half by scoring four goals in a 2:25 span to break open a tie game and build a 6-2 lead just three minutes into the second half. Nick Mirabito (Binghamton, N.Y.), William Wallace (Bloomfield Village, Mich.), Ian Dingman (Deferiet, N.Y.) and Birsner all scored goals in the run. Wallace dominated the run, winning the first four face-offs of the second half, scoring a goal and assisting on another. His goal gave Navy a 4-2 lead with 13:03 to play. He then won the ensuing face-off and fed Dingman for a 5-2 advantage just six seconds later.

Walker cut the Navy lead to 6-3 with 8:45 to play, but Dingman tallied his second goal of the period with just over two minutes to play for a 7-3 margin heading into the final quarter.

Taylor Harris (Clifton, Va.) rounded out Navy's scoring and the Mids ran out the clock for their third straight tournament title.

"When we got up 8-4, it just became a possession game. We weren't interested in shooting, we just wanted to hold the ball," said Meade. "They had a few more errors in the second half than we did and that made the difference."

Navy was led once again by Birsner, who paced the Mids with four points (1 g, 3 a). Birsner was named the Patriot League Tournament MVP after scoring eight points (2 g, 6 a), as well as going over the 50-point barrier for the season, in Navy's two weekend wins. Dingman added three points (2 g, 1 a) and Wallace scored two points (1 g, 1 a). Four other players added one point. Matt Russell (Madison, Conn.) made five saves in the cage for Navy.

As a team, Navy outshot Army, 35-23, including 23-10 in the decisive second half. Navy had 28 ground balls to Army's 24, went 13-of-17 on clears to Army's 18-of-22. The Mids won 10 face-offs to Army's seven, and Navy went 0-for-3 on extra-man chances.

Navy will now wait for its NCAA Tournament matchup to be announced when the selections are revealed on May 6.