Navy vs. Lafayette
March 7, 2009
The Game Story:
ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Sophomore attackman Andy Warner (Corning, N.Y.) scored a career-high three goals while rookie keeper RJ Wickham (Penn Yan, N.Y.) made a career-high 14 saves to lead the 16th-ranked Navy lacrosse team to a 14-9 victory over Patriot League foe Lafayette Saturday afternoon at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Warner and fellow attackman Tim Paul (Parkton, Md.) (two goals) were the only multi-goal scorers for the Mids, as 11 different players accounted for Navy's season-high 14 goals.

The 14 goals were the most by the Mids since putting 16 on the board in last year's win over Holy Cross in Dallas. Meanwhile, the nine goals scored by Lafayette were the most scored by the Leopards against Navy in the 10-game history.

"This was probably the worst defensive game I've seen us play in the last four years," said an agitated Richie Meade, who has directed the Mids to a 29-4 Patriot League record, including a 14-0 regular-season mark against conference foes at home. "I have to give Lafayette credit because Terry Mangan has done an outstanding job of recruiting some good young talent. But for us to give up nine goals is unacceptable against any opponent. We need to get some things fixed. Offensively we are improving, but today we definitely took a step backwards on the defense."

After exchanging goals over the first five minutes of the contest, Navy put together a 6-1 run that spanned just over 11 minutes and gave the Mids a comfortable 8-3 lead with 6:58 remaining in the opening half.

Included in the run by Navy were a pair of goals off of faceoff wins. At 13:36 in the second, junior long stick defensive midfielder Zack Schroeder (Deer Park, N.Y.) picked up the ground ball and headed for the goal where he tossed in his second score of the year. At 10:53, junior faceoff specialist Frankie Coppola (Bethesda, Md.) won the draw and fed Paul for the first of his two goals.

Lafayette responded just over four minutes later when junior midfielder Kevin Dunbar, who came into the contest having scored just once in three games, scored the second of a career-high four goals to cut into the Navy lead. Dunbar trimmed Navy's lead to three, 8-5, when he put the ball into play with under 30 seconds to go before the half and blew past a handful of Navy players only to fire in a goal just before the horn.

Navy's achilles heel this season has been giving up goals in the late stages of quarters. Including today's goal scored by Lafayette with one second left in the first half, the Mids have surrendered six goals with less than 40 seconds remaining in the period, including four with under three seconds to go. The only game Navy has not succumbed to a late goal was in its one-goal loss to nationally-ranked North Carolina.

The Mids opened the third period with a Brendan Connors (Bellmore, N.Y.) goal at 8:56, however, Lafayette answered just 50 seconds later when John Galassi found 2008 Patriot League Rookie of the Year Tom Perini in the middle of the box. Perini stopped his momentum and quickly turned and fired a shot that Wickham had no chance of stopping.

The Leopards got to within two at 9-7 when Dunbar rolled his way through three players on a miscue by Thomas Zimmerman (Owings Mills, Md.) and Basil Daratsos (Niskayuna, N.Y.), who were attempting to switch players. Dunbar smartly attacked Daratsos who was running at him, but muscled his way through another two defenders to thread his shot past Wickham with 6:14 remaining in the third quarter.

It took just four seconds for Navy to respond, however, as Coppola won the draw and fed Paul for the score. After the first nine Navy goals were scored by nine different players, the Paul became the first multiple goal scorer for the Mids in the game with 6:10 remaining in the third period.

Lafayette, though, got the final say of the quarter as Matt Mersky fed Stefan Bauer for a highlight-reel goal. Bauer set up seven yards off the crease and scored off a behind-the-back shot to narrow Navy's lead to 10-8.

Navy went on to seal the victory with a strong offensive effort in the fourth quarter. The Mids outscored the Leopards 4-1 in the final period, including back-to-back goals by Warner from Paul, to take the 14-9 victory.

Among the 11 goal scorers for the Mids were seniors Michael Beggins (Smithtown, N.Y.) and Bobby Lennon (Westminster, Md.) who each scored their first goals of the year. For Beggins, it was his fifth collegiate goal, while Lennon, a short stick defensive midfielder, pumped in his second goal in four seasons. Meanwhile, Coppola put up the first points of his career with a pair of assists.

While the defense overall might not have been a bright spot for the Midshipmen, Wickham was impressive in goal. Earning just his third career start, he stepped in and cut off scoring opportunities by Lafayette time and again and ended the contest with 14 saves. It was the most saves by a Navy keeper since Colin Finnegan warded off 14 shots on goal against Georgetown in a one-goal loss in 2007.

"I felt like after fall ball RJ was our best goalkeeper, but I was hesitant to start a freshman at the beginning of the season," said Meade. "After the first couple of games, I thought we could get more out of that position and decided to make the change. He made some pretty impressive saves today and was put in a tough position to make some stops. He hasn't gotten a whole lot of help from the defense over the last few games."

"Honestly, it's a lot of pressure," Wickham said in regards to starting as a freshman. "But I'm enjoying it and Matt (Coughlin) and Tommy (Phelan) have been behind me. They have been nothing short of supportive, as I would be for each of them when they are starting."

Navy will be back in action this week with a pair of Patriot League road games. The Mids face Lehigh in Bethlehem, Pa. on Tuesday beginning at 7:00 pm, followed by a Saturday matinee against Holy Cross starting at 3:00 pm. Saturday's trip to Worcester, Mass., marks only the second time Navy and Holy Cross have met in Worcester, Mass., and the first since 2005.