Navy vs. Vmi
February 7, 2009
The Game Story:
ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- The 11th-ranked Navy lacrosse team outscored VMI 8-0 in the second half, surviving a first-half scare to earn a 13-5 victory over the Keydets Saturday afternoon at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in what was both teams' season opener. Deadlocked at five apiece at the half, the Mids peppered VMI with 30 second-half shots while their stifling defense gave the Keydets just five looks at the goal over the final 30 minutes.

The Midshipmen, who have faced VMI in the opener in each of the last two seasons, have now won eight straight season openers, outscoring their foes at an alarming 96-18 (12.0-2.3) rate. The last time head coach Richie Meade's Mids dropped a season opener was in 2001 when UMBC escaped with a 9-8 overtime win at Rip Miller Field in Annapolis.

"VMI is a much different team now than last year at this time," said Meade, who is in his 15th season as the Mids' head coach. "All of their players were a little inexperienced a year ago, but this year they have more confidence. Honestly, I was happy just to be able to stay with them for a little while there.

"Certainly we weren't expecting to be tied 5-5 going into the half, but I told our players that we needed to keep our poise and go out and play smart in the second half. We had a lot of opportunities in the first half, but we did not take advantage of it. It was our first game of the year and it seems like our mistakes are magnified because everyone thinks you should be playing a perfect game. We definitely have some things to work out before we play Ohio State next week."

Navy gave way to an overwhelming performance by head coach Jeff Shirk's Keydets early in the contest. In fact, Lowell Patterson stuck in VMI's first goal just 28 seconds into the contest. The Mids answered two minutes later when junior midfielder Joe Lennon (Westminster, Md.) found a seam and threaded in a shot past keeper Sean McCoy.

The two teams again exchanged goals with Jacob Weimer punching in a goal at 9:31, followed by Navy's Tim Paul (Parkton, Md.) who knotted the game up with 5:29 remaining. VMI, though, made a statement when it scored back-to-back goals just seven seconds apart, including a faceoff scoop-and-shoot marker by Stephen Robarge, to take a 4-2 lead into the second quarter.

Navy cut into the lead a minute into the second stanza when a VMI turnover led to a Geoff Leone(Massapequa, N.Y.)-to-Paul goal. After seven scoreless minutes, the Mids finally found the equalizer when Paul found an open Brendan Connors (Bellmore, N.Y.) who powered in his first goal of the year. Navy scored its third straight goal and took its first lead of the game when Michael Beggins (Smithtown, N.Y.) ran up the gut, finding Brian Striffler (Virginia Beach, Va.) on the left wing who promptly fired off a lefty shot into the far corner.

The Mids, however, were unable to keep the momentum as Tim Moran found Jacob Weimer with 39 seconds to go in the half to knot the game at 5-5.

Navy came out of the locker room a much different team in the second half, tightening up in all facets of the game, including where it all starts, the faceoff "x". Robarge owned the Mids in the opening half, winning 9 of the 12 draws, however, Meade turned to senior Brendan Hamm (Penn Yan, N.Y.) to turn the tide for the Mids. And that he did, winning six of the nine faceoffs in the second half, he helped put the ball in Navy's sticks.

"I asked Brendan if he thought he could beat VMI's faceoff guy and he said yes, so I went with him," added Meade. "Brendan thought he had a feel for what he was doing."

"The funny thing about facing off is it's all about matchups," said Hamm, who had taken just one draw prior to the VMI contest. "There's really nothing special about it, my move was such that I felt like I could beat him."

With more possessions, the Mids shot nearly at will, launching 30 of their 46 shots in the second half of the contest, while the defense smothered VMI, allowing just five shots in that same period of time.

A goal by starting attack Andy Warner five minutes into the third quarter gave Navy the lead for good, though, it was the Mids' three goals over the course of a minute that broken open the game. Senior Bruce Nechanicky (Montgomery Village, Md.), who returned to the field for the first time since suffering a devastating knee injury against Georgetown in 2007, got things going when classmate Matt Bitter (Manhasset, N.Y.) fed him at 8:11.

The Mids followed up with back-to-back goals scored 31 seconds apart. Junior attack Evan Sullivan (Westfield, N.J.), who turned in his first collegiate hat trick, fired in his first career goal at the 7:40 mark. On the ensuing play, a VMI turnover once again led to a Navy goal as Zack Schroeder (Deer Park, N.Y.) ran nearly coast-to-coast to feed Nechanicky for his second goal of the day.

By quarter's end, Navy pushed its lead to 10-5 after a goal by All-Patriot League midfielder Patrick Moran (Annapolis, Md.) at the five-minute mark.

Navy took a 12-5 lead early in the the fourth quarter when VMI was assessed a pair of penalties just 26 seconds apart. A slash by Shane Wilkinson set up a Lennon-to-Connors strike at 12:20. At the tail end of the play, Kyle Hofstetter laid out a Navy player and was called for an illegal body check, putting the Mids a man up once again. Navy threw the ball around the horn a few times before Sullivan notched his second goal of the game at the 11:59 mark.

Sullivan scored the Mids' final goal of the game at 9:19 when Schroeder once again anchored a transition attack by the Mids.

For just the 13th time since extra-man goals were documented (1989), Navy finished game 100 percent. Even more impressive, it's the first time the Mids have been 4-for-4. The previous best was a 3-for-3 effort against Air Force in 2000 and again in 2004 by Lehigh.

"Anthony Gilardi (Navy's new assistant coach who replaced Ryan Moran) has brought a bit of a different approach to our extra-man offense," said Meade. "I think the guys have responded to what he has brought to our program."

Meanwhile, Navy senior keeper (Matt Coughlin (Brightwaters, N.Y.), who did not have a save in the opening quarter, finished the game with seven stops, four in the second half.

The Midshipmen return to action next Saturday when they play host to No. 21 Ohio State. Faceoff is set for 12:00 pm at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium with live coverage on 1430 WNAV.