Navy vs. Army
April 26, 2003
The Game Story:
ANNAPOLIS, Md. - The Navy lacrosse team claimed its sixth-consecutive N-Star against arch rival Army Saturday afternoon, as the Mids edged out the 16th-ranked Black Knights, 12-11, at Rip Miller Field in Annapolis. The 13 Navy seniors, meanwhile, concluded their playing careers having never lost to Army.

"I'm very happy for our seniors today," said Navy head coach Richie Meade. "I'm happy for our team and everyone associated with our program. It's been a tough year. But I think our guys kept their focus throughout the year. The Army-Navy game is a special game for both these teams and today's game was a classic in this rivalry."

Sophomore midfielder Jim Wagner got the Black Knights on the scoreboard first, as he took a pass from leading scorer Jeff Bryan and stuffed it in past Navy keeper Seth DiNola (Ballston Lake, N.Y.) to take a 1-0 lead two minutes into the contest.

Navy rookie attack Ian Dingman (Deferiet, N.Y.) countered by backing his way in to knot the game at one apiece with 8:54 to play. Army went on to score back-to-back goals by John Ryan and John Walker, who coincidentally both finished the game with hat tricks.

Down two goals, the Mids held Army in check and momentum switched hands after Greg Conklin (Syracuse, N.Y.) picked up a ground ball off an errant shot and found an open Joe Bossi (Skaneateles, N.Y.) in front of the goal. Bossi's goal with 5:05 left in the first stanza was the first of three-consecutive goals by the Midshipmen, as Navy charged ahead by period's end for a 4-3 lead.

The Black Knights tied the game twice in the second period on goals by none other than Ryan and Walker before the Mids scored back-to-back goals late in the quarter. Junior midfielder Ben Bailey (Memphis, Tenn.) took a pass from Graham Gill (Medford, N.J.) and sent it sailing into the goal, while senior Kelly Nash, who was questionable coming into the game with a bad hamstring, pushed the lead to 7-5, taking a pass from Dingman and muscling it in past Army keeper Matt Darak. Darak caught a piece of the ball, but it wasn't enough to take the zing off it, and Navy took a 7-5 lead into the locker room at halftime. Navy opened the third quarter with a quick score, as freshman middie Jon Birsner (Levittown, N.Y.) fed Gill to give the Mids a three-goal pad.

Army climbed back into the game, as Ryan and Walker scored back-to-back goals, including a man-down strike with 8:40 remaining to get the Black Knights to within a goal. During the Army run, Navy's top defender, Chris Stebbings (New Freedom, Pa.), was sidelined with a cut over his right eye. It took several minutes to get the bleeding stopped and for Stebbings to return to the field.

Upon his return, Navy regrouped and went up 9-7 after Conklin took a Dingman pass and scored just 34 seconds after Army's man-down goal. Facing a two-goal deficit to open the fourth quarter, Army refused to toss in the towel, scoring two-straight goals in less that 30 seconds to knot the game at nine apiece with 12:04 remaining.

Birsner, who sat out the entire second quarter after taking a shot to the head, put Navy up by a goal with 10:32 to go. Just 14 seconds later, Navy took the face-off from the defensive side of the field and an alert Thomas Morris (Alexandria, Va.) found Conklin wide open on the left side of the goal. Conklin faked Darak once and laid it into the goal to secure the Navy win.

Army and Navy traded goals in the final-10 minutes, including a pair by Marko Kostovic. Kostovic got the Black Knights to within one with 16 seconds remaining, but Navy won the ensuing face-off and claimed its sixth-straight win over Army.

Navy out-shot Army, 42-28, and won the ground ball war, 38-33. The Mids, and in particular senior Chris Dingman (Deferiet, N.Y.), did an admirable job in the face-off circle. Army entered the contest ranked fourth in the country in face-offs with its 61.7 winning percentage. The Mids claimed 15 of the 27 draws, including 13 by Dingman. Meanwhile, Army's Tony Vozzolo was just 8-for-19 after entering the game winning 62.3 percent.

The win marked the 18th time in the 80-game series that the contest has been decided by one goal. The last time was a 10-9 victory by Navy in 1994, however, four of the last-six games have been decided by three or fewer goals.