Navy vs. Hobart
May 2, 2004
The Game Story:
ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Four different midfielders scored seven of the Mids' nine goals to lead No. 2 Navy to a 9-8 victory over 19th-ranked Hobart in the championship game of the Patriot League Tournament played Sunday at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Navy, who claimed both the regular-season and tournament titles, has earned an automatic bid to play in the NCAA Tournament by virtue of the Patriot League Tournament win. The victory also gave Navy its 12th win of the spring campaign, a school record for wins, bettering the previous mark of 11 set in 1949 and again in 1978.

Navy jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the game when Ben Bailey (Memphis, Tenn.) took a long-range shot and sank it above Hobart goalkeeper Dan Valente's shoulder.

The Statesmen evened the score when Chris David put Hobart on the board at the 8:24 mark on an unassisted goal. Hobart took its only lead of the game when Nate Hill found leading scorer Mark Williamson for his 30th goal of the year, putting the Statesmen up, 2-1, with 3:12 to play in the first period.

Navy took little time in knotting up the score for the second time of the game when Patriot League Tournament MVP Steve Looney (Silver Spring, Md.) stuck a goal off the face-off just 42 seconds into the second stanza. Twenty-seven seconds later, Graham Gill (Medford, N.J.) scored the first of his game-high three goals on the afternoon to give Navy a 3-2 lead.

Hill converted the first of his three goals of the day, tying the game up once again at 3-3 with 12:24 to play in the second quarter.

Navy went on to score six of the next seven goals from the 5:16 mark in the second quarter until the 11:51 mark in the third quarter and own a 9-4 lead. Those scoring goals in that run included a pair by Gill, two by junior attack Ben Horn (Mill Valley, Calif.) and one each by Steve and Billy Looney (Silver Spring, Md.).

With a five-goal lead, Navy had the game well in hand. Hobart, however, scored four-consecutive goals and put itself within a goal with 11 minutes to go in the contest. Neither team scored over the final 11 minutes and Navy was crowned the league champion.

Hobart was able to do something no other Navy opponent has done this season - hold the Mids scoreless for an entire quarter. Not only did the Mids not score in the fourth quarter, they did not score for nearly 27 minutes as their final goal of the game was with 11:51 remaining in the third quarter.

Navy was once again without face-off specialist Chris Pieczonka (Hamburg, N.Y.), though freshman William Wallace (Bloomfield Village, Mich.) stepped in without missing a beat. Wallace, who was 14 for 18 against Colgate in the first round, faced a much tougher opponent in Hobart freshman John Soden. Wallace, however, won 10 of the 17 face-offs he took, while fellow rookie Tommy Wallin (Mountain Lakes, N.J.) was 3 for 4. Soden, meanwhile, finished 8 for 21 on the afternoon, taking every face-off for the Statesmen.

Defensively, Navy sophomore keeper Matt Russell (Madison, Conn.) faced 33 shots, giving up eight goals and stopping nine shots on goal. Hobart's Valente was strong in the cage, producing 15 saves among the 34 shots he faced.

Steve Looney was awarded the Patriot League MVP award after recording four goals and an assist in the tournament. Seemingly never out of the game, Looney is the blue collar worker of the team, playing on the wings for face-offs, defensive middie, as well as offensive middie.

"Steve's our work horse," said Bailey. "He's like an old school type of midfielder. He's the trench digger type of guy. He can play defense against some of the best players in the country, yet come down and be a scoring threat on offense. He's a valuable guy to have on our team."

Navy head coach Richie Meade, who earned his 100th-career victory with the win over Hobart, was happy to walk away from the weekend with a pair of wins.

"We are 12-2, we just won the Patriot League Tournament and we earned the automatic bid to play in the NCAA Tournament. I feel good," he said. "I don't think we played our best game. It was a tough game to play and I thought Hobart played well.

"There were a couple of times in the third quarter that I thought we had them on the ropes. we made a couple of mistakes and they were good enough to take advantage of those mistakes. All said, I'm happy for the guys and how this season has gone. Now we start all over again with the NCAA Tournament."

Navy will have the next two weeks off before playing in the NCAA Tournament. Navy's opponent and game site have yet to be determined. The NCAA Tournament field will be announced Monday, May 10.

"There's not a single guy on this team that is content just making the tournament," said Russell. "We feel confident we can win some games in the tournament. Having the next few weeks off gives us the opportunity to go back to the basics and get ready."