Annapolis, MD – The Midshipmen of Navy used a four goal day by senior Joe Bossi and a four point day by sophomore Ian Dingman (2 goals and 2 assists) in order to surpass the Pennsylvania Quakers 11-5 in first round NCAA action. Navy held onto a 1-0 lead heading into the 2nd quarter, a 4-1 halftime lead, and used four 4th quarter goals to pull away from Penn. Penn received help from senior captain Will Phillips, playing in his hometown contributing a goal and an assist, and sophomore PJ Gilbert added two goals. Both goalies were solid in net, with Penn’s Ryan Kelly putting out the slightly better performance of 9 saves, to Russell’s 7 saves. The glaring statistical difference was Navy doubling up Penn’s shots taken – 36 to 18.
In a rematch of a 1989 NCAA Tournament game and the last time these two teams met, Navy came away with its first Tournament win since their last match-up. The game started out in what would for Penn be a predictable pace – low scoring, settled offenses. That style isn’t Navy’s preferred style of play, and as the game progressed Navy was able to take advantage of transition, which was a more familiar style. Neither team was able to penetrate for good looks at either cage during the 1st quarter. Penn had one late look, that while not a particularly good shot, the ball did seem to trickle just over the goal line. Nonetheless the refs waved it off as Navy goalie Matt Russell and middie Dan Harris dove to prevent it from going any farther (see pictures – I swear from my vantage point it was a goal, had it been allowed, it would have given Penn needed early momentum). Shortly after with 1:03 left in the 1st, Navy attackman Ian Dingman used his tremendous size to back in a Penn defender (not to mention what seemed to be a ward or two) and then finished with a diving goal for the first goal of the game. Both goalies were big in the 1st quarter with Kelly contributing 4 saves on 10 shots and Russell 3 saves on 5 shots in the 1st.
Penn wouldn’t waste any time responding in the 2nd as freshman Mark Becker put a sidearm laser past Russell on the off-stick side to even the game at 1, less than a minute into the 2nd. Graham Gill put Navy back on top exactly two minutes later as he finished a wraparound goal for his 18th on the year. A little over two minutes after that, Taylor Harris notched his 2nd goal of the season unassisted as he beat his man top-side and put the left shot away for a 3-1 Navy advantage. With 3:05 to play in the first half, Navy took advantage of a questionable slashing call as Ben Bailey took a Jon Birsner feed on the extra-man to send the game into the half with a 4-1 Navy lead.
Heading into the half, it was clear that Navy utilized more players on the field, seemingly running as deep as a third midfield, compared to Penn’s two. It also was apparent that Navy was a more physical team, possibly helped a little bit by home referees. For Penn, they seemed to struggle a little to keep their footing, as this was only their 2nd game on grass on the season (the other a 13-5 loss at Maryland). Penn also hurt their chances by not taking advantage of two 1st quarter slashes by Navy. In order to beat a team like Navy, chances such as extra-man opportunities need to be capitalized on.
As Penn coach, Brian Voelker pointed out after the game: “We tried to keep a short stick on [Joe Bossi] and it worked for the first half of the game, but not so well in the second half.” As Bossi had been shut down for the 1st half of the game, the strategy would come back to haunt the Quakers at the start of the 3rd quarter. First, Will Phllips possessed the ball behind the net and was able to get his man caught up in front of the cage. This enabled Phillips to drive hard into an athletic lefty jump shot one-on-one with the goale (see pictures) to cut the Navy lead to two. It would take Navy 9 minutes before it was able to strike again, but as they seemed to be subbing their defensive middies off for their offensive middies, Joe Bossi was able to cut and find himself open. Ian Dingman fed Bossi who finished it for the 5-1 Navy lead. Penn’s defense seemed to drop their guard just enough for Bossi to get open, as throughout the game both teams had often substituted at the beginning of every possession to get the proper personnel on the field. That enabled Bossi to get open. 1:26 later on a nearly identical play Dingman again fed Bossi from virtually the same spot on the field. 53 seconds later, Bossi again burnt the Quakers only this time it was on an extra-man opportunity. Both the man-up and man-down units had great rotation as Navy worked the ball around briskly. Eventually it took a great individual effort by Bossi on a roll-dodge into a sidearm shot that beat Ryan Kelly for the 7-2 lead.
In the resilience they’ve shown all year, Penn would not just roll over and give the Midshipmen the game. DJ Andrzejewski drew a penalty on Mitch Hendler, and with the flag on the ground fed Phillips. Phillips, who Hendler had slid off to Andrzejewski when he committed the penalty, found himself covered by a short-stick midfielder. Phillips drove and moved the ball to PJ Gilbert who beat Russell to cut the lead to 4. On the ensuing man-up, Gilbert took a Zandy Reich feed and cut the lead further to 3. To start the 4th quarter, Navy held onto a three goal lead.
Unfortunately for the Quakers, that was as close as they would get, as Navy possessed the ball for nearly the entire quarter, and limited Penn to only three 4th quarter shots, compared with their 11. Dingman notched his second goal of the game on a Jon Birsner feed with 12:06 remaining in the game, stretching the lead back to 4. Bossi took a Graham Gill feed on another extra-man advantage and put Navy up five with 9:50 to play. Ben Horn would add a Navy goal with 7:25 left. On the face-off that followed, Alan Eberstein subbed in for Penn senior Ethan Haire who seemed to be banged up. Eberstein won the face-off to himself, scooped on the groundball and carried the ball behind the goal-line extended. He then beat his man and put the ball past Russell, giving the Quakers life once again with the lead down to 5 with 7:10 left to play.
Navy however was too much for the Quakers as they possessed the ball for nearly the entire last 7:10 with Graham Gill notching his 2nd goal of the day with 4:35 left making the final score 4:35.
For Navy, they now head to Ithaca to play Cornell in a quarterfinal battle next Sunday. For Penn, it is back to Philadelphia after a season that despite seven losses, was a major building block for the Quaker program. As Coach Voelker mentioned, the team may have “overachieved” this season, but now the Quakers can look to the future as their first trip back to the Tournament in 15 years didn’t end the way they wanted, but was a big step for the team.
It’ll be interesting to see which Navy team shows up next week in Ithaca. The Midshipmen of the 1st half was drastically different from the 2nd half, as Joe Bossi pointed out, "We just started to execute better. I don't know if it was because we hadn't played for two weeks or not, but we started to play as we should in the second half." Ian Dingman summed it up for Navy, “"We are looking to win the whole thing, but you can only play one game at a time. So that's what we'll do." And with that attitude Navy heads to Ithaca next week, with a sloppy offensive first half written off to a two-week hiatus, Navy is set for a championship run.
|Joe Bossi||(4, 0)|
|Ian Dingman||(2, 2)|
|Graham Gill||(2, 1)|
|Jon Birsner||(0, 2)|
|Ben Bailey||(1, 0)|
|Matt Midura||(0, 1)|
|Steve Looney||(0, 1)|
|Ben Horn||(1, 0)|
|Taylor Harris||(1, 0)|
|Matt Russell||7 (0.583)|