Navy vs. Johns Hopkins
April 22, 2006
The Game Story:
ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Sophomore Kevin Huntley's game-winner dribbled through All-American keeper Matt Russell's (Madison, Conn.) legs with 5:07 remaining in the contest,as No. 12 Johns Hopkins claimed a 9-8 thriller over fourth-ranked Navy on a soggy afternoon at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Huntley's goal helped the Blue Jays keep their winning streak over the Mids intact, as Hopkins has now won 32 in a row against Navy. Meanwhile it's the third-straight one goal game between the two teams and the fifth-consecutive one-goal decision by the Blue Jays in games played in Annapolis (15-14 in 1998, 7-6 OT in 2000, 9-8 in 2002 and 10-9 OT in 2004).

"There were too many little things that didn't go our way today for us to come up with a win," said Navy head coach Richie Meade. "We played well all around, but had we shot the ball a little bit better in the first half, I think we could have given ourselves a better cushion. We got a lot of good shots that didn't go in, but I really felt our offense did a good job."

Junior midfielder Billy Looney (Silver Spring, Md.) put the Mids on the scoreboard first, as he fired a shot at Jesse Schwartzman's right ankle, giving Navy a 1-0 advantage just 43 seconds into the game.

Hopkins answered when Jack Byrne bullied his way inside and faked left to right and found space just to the left of Russell's knee, knotting the score with just under 11 minutes remaining in the opening quarter.

Seniors Taylor Harris (Clifton, Va.) and Jon Birsner (Levittown, N.Y.) teamed up on back-to-back goals, including an extra-man tally at the 13:21 mark in the second, to give Navy a 3-1 lead with 10 minutes left in the half.

Hopkins stormed back with a pair of goals of its own to tie the game at three apiece. Navy's defense broke down, as Greg Peyser ran up the gut and beat Russell on a three-yarder. Huntley followed with a picturesque goal where he was horizontal when he released his shot from the right side.

Sophomore Nick Mirabito (Binghamton, N.Y.) set up Navy's goal with 3:25 left in the second quarter when he wrapped around the left side of the goal and found a wide-open Birsner standing on the crease for an easy score. The Mids tacked on a goal with just over a minute to play when rookie Matt Bitter (Manhasset, N.Y.) took a Terence Higgins (Chappaqua, N.Y.) pass and bounced it past Schwartzman to give Navy a 5-3 lead.

The Blue Jays, however, got the final say of the half when sophomore middie Stephen Peyser drove to the left side of the box and fired in his second goal of the season with 16.2 seconds remaining on the clock, narrowing the gap to one at the half.

Just 1:30 in the second half, Hopkins freshman Brian Christopher wrapped around the left side of the goal, tucking the ball over Russell's shoulder to tie the game at 5-5.

Birsner answered 1:24 later with his second goal of the game, running around the left side of the cage where he got off a quick shot. Navy pushed its lead to 7-5 when Birsner fed Mirabito who fired in a 10-yarder from the right side at the 5:20 mark. The Mids nearly made it a three-goal game, as Looney's shot at the horn hit the left post.

Hopkins opened up the fourth quarter with back-to-back goals nine seconds apart to tie the game up once again (7-7). Just as Geoff Leone (Massapequa, N.Y.) made contact with Byrne, Byrne was able to turn to right and flick the ball over his right shoulder, surprising Russell. On the ensuing face-off, Tommy Wallin (Mountain Lakes, N.J.) looked to scoop up the loose ball as it made its way towards the Navy goal. Tom Duerr, making his first start of the year, picked up the loose ball in an unsettled situation and quickly fired off the shot which rippled the left side of the net.

Johns Hopkins took its first lead of the day when Paul Rabil took a shot from eight yards out on the fly with 9:40 to go.

The Mids knotted up the game at eight apiece when the Birsner-Mirabito connection hooked up for the third time and Mirabito notched his second goal of the afternoon, launching from the right side of the field.

Huntley answered the call a minute later as he was able to thread the ball past Russell for the game-winner from the right side as he was falling down. The ball actually hit Russell and slowly rolled into the goal as Russell dove after it.

"Huntley slipped underneath and scored a great goal," said Meade.

"I knew he was going low, so I got down," said Russell. "It bobbled between my legs and just rolled in. He made a great play and I don't want to take anything away from him. He's a great player.

"I got hit with a few balls today and instead of deflecting out, they deflected in. That (Huntley's goal) was a perfect example of just that."

Navy had its chances down the stretch, but the small errors added up. Leone overthrew teammate Ian Dingman (Deferiet, N.Y.) on a clear attempt with 3:40 to play and with roughly 3:30 remaining, senior pole Chris Barnard (Rochester, N.Y.) was flagged for being offsides. Though the flag was thrown, Hopkins did a good job of maintaining possession and it wasn't until Russell came out of the goal and literally tackled Huntley on the end line that the play was whistled dead at the 1:07 mark and Navy would be a man down for 30 seconds.

It was Russell who once again came out of the goal and with 34.4 seconds to go, Russell pushed Byrne out of bounds and Navy got the ball back. Russell threw the ball in play and Looney came racing down the field. A couple of passes later, Looney fired off a 15-yarder that flew wide right. Navy retained possession with 9.9 seconds remaining and Birsner tried to squeeze the pass in to Dingman who was double teamed. Unable to make the catch, the ball was loose on the field when time expired.

"Heading into the fourth quarter, I felt like the next goal scored would be a big one. "

And that it was as the Blue Jays outscored Navy, 4-1, in the final quarter.

Birsner paced the Mids with two goals and four assists, while Mirabito turned in a two-goal, one-assist effort. Russell finished with six saves for Navy.

Eight of the nine Hopkins goals were unassisted, as Rabil paired his goal with an assist. Huntley and Byrne led the Blue Jays with two goals apiece, and Jamison Koesterer made a name for himself at the face-off "x" where he won nine of the 11 face-offs he took. Schwartzman, meanwhile, came up with 10 saves, including back-to-back point-blank saves in the second quarter against Dingman.

Navy returns to action next weekend when it plays in the Patriot League Tournament (Friday and Sunday). The site will be determined Sunday following the conclusion of the Colgate at Bucknell affair which is set for 1:00 pm. If Colgate, who is 4-2 on the road, defeats Bucknell, the two-day, four-team tournament will be held in Hamilton, N.Y. If Bucknell, who is not one of the four teams who has qualified to play in the league tournament, beats Colgate, Navy will play host to the tournament for the third-consecutive year.