ANNAPOLIS, MD. -- Senior Bruce Nechanicky (Montgomery Village, Md.) led Navy with three goals and an assist, while classmates Tommy Phelan (Towson, Md.) and Andy Tormey (Syracuse, N.Y.) anchored a defensive effort that held Maryland to a season-low four goals as the No. 17 Navy men's lacrosse team (8-3) earned a 10-4 victory over No. 8 Maryland (6-4) Friday night in front of 15,109 fans at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. It was the largest non-Johns Hopkins crowd to see a game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium and the fifth largest in stadium history.
The six-goal win was the largest margin of victory by Navy over the Terps since 1992 when the Midshipmen earned an 11-3 win. Meanwhile, the last time Navy scored double digits against Maryland was in 1995 when the Terps defeated the Mids, 19-11. The win also denied Maryland of the program's 700th win, needing just one victory to join an elite group of schools who have amassed 700-plus wins. Navy stands fourth on that list with now 736 wins in school history.
"I am really proud of our guys," said 15th-year Navy head coach Richie Meade. "I think we played with a lot more poise and maturity than we did earlier in the year. It was a big night for our seniors and for them to be able to win in front of a crowd like this and in this way, it'll be something they'll remember for a long time."
The tone was set early on in the game, as the Mids scored the contest's first goal after Maryland was whistled for a slash just two minutes into play. Navy junior attackman Brendan Connors (Bellmore, N.Y.) continued to have the hot hand, coming off a three-goal effort against Georgetown, punching in his second extra-man goal of the season off an assist from Nechanicky.
Maryland would eventually answer, but the Terps would be methodic in their offensive possessions. Sophomore attackman Ryan Young, who was defended by first-time Navy starter Tom Mansfield (Port Washington, N.Y.), swung from behind the goal and curled around to the right to find a gap over Phelan's shoulder to even the score at 4:23 in the first quarter.
Maryland would take its first and only lead of the game with just over a minute left in the opening stanza when Notre Dame transfer Will Yeatman took Navy rookie defenseman Matt Vernam (Shoreham, N.Y.) behind the cage and popped in his first of two goals of the evening from the opposite side of the cage.
The Mids scored the equalizer with 4:05 remaining in the first half when Nechanicky picked up the ground ball off a Maryland turnover and was off to the races. Scooping the ball up along the far sideline, Nechanicky raced towards the cage, looking to score but instead found defensive midfielder Bobby Lennon (Westminster, Md.) trailing the play. He sent a pass to Lennon, who fed long pole defensive middie Zack Schroeder (Deer Park, N.Y.) for a picturesque goal. It was Schroeder's third goal of the year and the seventh by a Navy defensive midfielder this season.
Navy scored the go-ahead goal with just five seconds remaining in the opening half on a Tim Paul (Parkton, Md.)-to-Joe Lennon (Westminster, Md.) marker in what may have been the dagger by the Mids. With time winding down, Paul set up behind the goal and found Lennon on the right wing. Lennon was able to turn his defender and get his left hand free to send his shot past Terrapin keeper Jason Carter to give the Mids' a 3-2 lead heading into the half.
Maryland dominated the stat sheet at the half, outshooting the Mids, 20-10 and winning six of the seven faceoffs. But Phelan helped the struggling Mids get through a tough first half by making five saves in each of the first two quarters.
"We pretty much played defense the whole first quarter. We really struggled. We never had the ball and honestly, we were just trying to survive. Fortunately, Tommy was able to help us out by making some good saves."
Navy continued to flourish on the offensive end of the field to open the second half, extending its lead to 7-2 by the end of the quarter. Nechanicky scored twice in the third, including his second of the night with just eight ticks left in the quarter.
Sandwiched in the midst of the four-goal third quarter was a perfectly executed transition play that began with a poke check by Mansfield that knocked the ball loose behind the Navy goal on the Maryland offensive side of the field. Mansfield grabbed the ball and sent it to mid-field for defensive midfielder Geoff Leone (Massapequa, N.Y.). Leone, who was coming off a career-best two-goal output against the Hoyas, fed sophomore attackman Andy Warner who sent in a 10-yard shot for his first goal in the last three contests.
After more than 30 scoreless minutes by the Terrapin offense, Maryland finally got on the scoreboard to open up the final period of play. Mr. do-it-all Jeff Reynolds won the faceoff and promptly raced down to take a shot that was saved by Phelan, but bounced back in front of the goal. Young happened to be at the right place at the right time and picked up the loose ball and poked it in.
Four minutes later, Maryland trimmed the lead to 7-4 when Vernam left Yeatman on the right wing, leaving only Phelan to beat as Yeatman fired in his second goal of the game.
Navy, though, would not be denied, as it held the Terps without a goal for the final 10 minutes of action, while tacking on three of its own, including a beauty by Warner. Rookie attackman Ryan O'Leary (East Meadow, N.Y.) attempted to shoot the ball from in tight, but it was blocked. Warner managed to come up with the ball and lofted his shot at the goal as he was falling to the ground, sneaking it past Carter at the 9:14 mark.
Minutes later, Nechanicky scored his third goal of the game, just his second career hat trick, off an assist from rookie midfielder Nikk Davis (Cockeysville, Md.). Nechanicky came around the side of the cage, where he was able to jam it in past Carter's ankles on the near post.
Sophomore midfielder Brian Striffler (Virginia Beach, Va.) scored the Mids' final goal of the evening, beating Max Schmidt in front of the goal for the unassisted marker with just over four minutes to go.
In what has become one of the most balanced offensive units in the country, seven different players accounted for the Mids' 10 goals, while six of the 10 markers were assisted.
Meanwhile, on the opposite end of the field, the Mids played as fine a game as they have all year. Not only did Phelan improve upon his career-high day from a week ago, the Mids' close defense was force to be reckoned with. In fact, Tormey single-handedly shut down Maryland sophomore attackman Grant Catalino, snapping the likely All-American's 22-game point-scoring streak in what was the nation's 10th-longest active streak. Navy also held senior middie Dan Groot without a point for the first time this season.
The four-goal output by the Terps marked the fewest goals they have scored since last year's 10-4 loss to Johns Hopkins, just a week after the Mids held them to four goals en route to a 5-4 Navy win in College Park. The four goals were well below the 11.11 Maryland was averaging coming into the game. Meanwhile, the Mids' man-down defense outmatched the Terps' extra-man offense, keeping Maryland in check the two times it was a man up.
"To hold Maryland to four goals, you have to have great goaltending and we got that out of Tommy tonight," added Meade. "But I'm not sure they had the ball much in the second half and that's a great credit to both our offense, who was able to possess, as well as our defense who came up with some fantastic takeaways when we needed them."
After winning just one faceoff in the opening half, Navy won seven of the 11 in the second half thanks to Frankie Coppola getting the ball out into the open field. Meade pointed to senior Matt Bitter (Massapequa, N.Y.), who picked up a career-high six ground balls, as the difference maker.
"Matt Bitter was one of the biggest keys to our success in the second half coming in off the wing," said Meade. "Going into the game, we were hoping to contain Maryland at the faceoff "x". We didn't want to give up that unsettled goal. Matt played one of the best games of his career and played a crucial role in our win tonight."
The Midshipmen will be back in action on Saturday when they make the short trip to Baltimore to take part in the Smartlink Day of Rivals at M&T Bank Stadium. Navy will battle arch rival Army in the annual Star Game, marking the first time the schools will play the all-important contest on neutral ground. Game time is slated for 11:30 am and will be televised to a national audience on ESPNU. Following the Army-Navy game will be the 105th meeting between Maryland and Johns Hopkins which is set to begin at 2:00 pm.
Navy vs. Maryland
|Bruce Nechanicky||(3, 1)|
|Andy Warner||(2, 0)|
|Michael Beggins||(1, 0)|
|Tim Paul||(0, 1)|
|Ryan O'leary||(0, 1)|
|Geoff Leone||(0, 1)|
|Bobby Lennon||(0, 1)|
|Nikk Davis||(0, 1)|
|Brian Striffler||(1, 0)|
|Zack Schroeder||(1, 0)|
|Joe Lennon||(1, 0)|
|Brendan Connors||(1, 0)|