With a history of close games between Navy (#4) and UNC (#7), the lacrosse fans rolled into Annapolis with a lot of expectations. Myself being one of them, I was not dissappointed. Although the game did not come down to overtime this year, key players and units lived up to their reputations. For Navy, Matt Russell was more than solid between the pipes, Steve Looney was on fire, and the defense seemed to be one step ahead of everyone else on the field. For UNC, Jed Prossner seemed unphased by Navy's control of the game as he netted 3 goals and added an assist. Most impressive of Prossner's performance was his individual efforts and refusal to concede a Navy victory late in fourth quater.
After Navy won the opening faceoff, a long Navy possesion ensued with crisp ball movement and conservative shots. This four minute possesion was ended with a vicious wrap check leading to a UNC's first possesion. At 9:56 in the first, UNC'sMike McCall netted his first goal of the day with an assist from Ryan Blair. This early lead did not last long. Just six seconds later, Navy ran a textbook fastbreak after a Chris Pieczonka face-off win. Pieczonka moved the ball to Nick Mirabito who found Ben Horn on the doorstep for a goal at 9:50. Five minutes late, Navy's Steve Looney got his first points of the day as he fed Joe Birsner for goal at 4:50, to end the first quater with Navy up 2-1. Navy's constant ball possesion and non stop defensive pressure were definitely a sign of what was to come.
The first goal of the second period came at 13:34 after Navy picked up a loose ball at midfield and ran a fastbreak that ended with an assist from Seth Dinola to Mikelis Visguass. At 7:00, Navy was finally able to get their second goal as Jed Prossner fired one high during a UNC man advantage. UNC's Bryant Will was able to find Prossner after Navy's man-down defense over extended itself midway through the penalty. Unfortunately, UNC's comeback was short lived as Navy scored two quick goals off of clean face-off draws. The first came at 6:54 with Steve Looney taking it all the way to the goal after scooping up a GB off the faceoff wing. Seconds later, Looney got his second goal of the day as Navy ran yet another perfect fastbreak that ended with a Rob Driscoll assist to Looney. Navy added two more unanswered goals before half. Tommy Wallin assisted Ben Horn for an open shot that stuck in the upper right hand corner of the net at 4:23. Next, Looney got his third goal as he dodged from the top left, dodged his slide man, and put one past UNC's Paul Spellman.
The third quater only saw one goal when UNC's Mike McCall got his second of the day with an assist from Andrew McElduff. The fourth started with a Looney getting his FOURTH of the day with the help of a Joe Birsner assist. With the score being 8-3, Navy began to maintain possesion and was warned at 11 minutes left to keep it in the box after stalling. The possesion continued and Navy's Jon Birsner was able to get another assist by hooking up Ben Horn for his second after the over anxious UNC defense extended itself. Sensing the threat of a "L" on their record, senior Jed Prossner began to make things happen in a last ditch effort to mount a comeback. First he found Ryan Walterhoefer for his first goal during a man advantage at 6:44. Prossner's next goal even had Navy fans admiring his athletic ability. Dodging from behind, Prossner was able to shake off 2 sliding Navy defensemen then managed to sneak one past Matt Russell with an improvised behind the back shot to increase his shooting angle (shown in photo sequence). Just 15 seconds later, Prossner was able to stick another 12 yard shot with a feed from Bryant Will. Sensing a comeback in the making, the Navy's fans turned up the volume on their cheering and helped their team leg out the last few possesions to hold on for the win at 9-6.
Today, Navy was clearly the better team. Navy's energy, team cohesion, and obvious preparation for today's game was evident when watching the game, and even more apparent when looking at the post game stats. In shots, Navy outshot UNC 43-19, which explains why it seemed that Navy had the ball most of the game. Face-offs where dominated with Navy winning 13 of 18 at the X. One of UNC's biggest problems was their inability to clear the ball at only 13 of 24 clears. This just gave Navy more ball possesion and in turn, more opportunities. Navy seems to be on the right track to make another run at the Final Four if they keep up their style of play combined with non-stop energy. UNC is also another solid team that should be watched closely. With the nation's best attackman leading them, they have the potential to still be playing in May if they can get the early season jitters out. They are going to have to when they play Notre Dame this weekend in California's "First Four."
|Steve Looney||(4, 1)|
|Ben Horn||(2, 1)|
|Jon Birsner||(1, 2)|
|Nick Mirabito||(1, 1)|
|Tommy Wallin||(0, 1)|
|Seth Dinola||(0, 1)|
|Mikelis Visgauss||(1, 0)|
|Matt Russell||8 (0.571)|