Army Wins Patriot League Championship With 11-8 Victory Over Navy
WEST POINT, N.Y. - Army junior goalkeeper Tom Palesky was named tournament MVP after leading the Black Knights to a 11-8 victory over Navy to win the 2010 Patriot League Men's Lacrosse Championship, Sunday afternoon at Michie Stadium.
Junior attackman Jeremy Boltus garnered all-tournament honors after scoring five points on two goals and three assists as Army (10-5) won its first-ever Patriot League Tournament crown. After falling to Navy in the championship game in 2005 and 2006, the third time was the charm as the Black Knights secured their first appearance in the NCAA since 2005 and 16th overall.
Trailing 4-3 with 5:20 left in the second quarter, Army broke the game open with a decisive 5-0 run to lead 8-4 with 5:55 left in the third quarter. Navy (7-8) scored two unanswered to cut the deficit to two, 8-6, with 12:56 left in the fourth quarter, but Army would finish the game on a 3-2 run, while building a 36-19 edge in ground balls to seal the victory.
Palesky was credited with 12 saves after compiling 17 in Friday's 9-7 semifinal victory over Bucknell. He joined Boltus, senior attackman Tyler Seymour and junior defenseman Bill Henderson on the all-tournament team.
After starting the season with a 1-4 record, Army rebounded to win nine of its next 10 games, and will take a seven-game winning streak into the NCAA Tournament. Sunday's victory also marked the first time the Black Knights ever beat Navy twice in one season after also taking a 7-6 decision two weeks ago at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.
"This was a typical Army-Navy game. It was a great battle between two good teams that are well-coached," said Army head coach Joe Alberici. "It had to take one of our most complete efforts of the season, and I felt like today might have been that. Nothing takes the place of a championship format in coming out on top. I'm really excited for this group of guys that, at one point, were 1-4 and had every reason to start pointing their finger at everyone else and mail it in. The guys stuck with the plan, believed in one another and stayed together as a family."
"It's pretty wild to think of when you think of where we came from," added senior captain Alex Gephart. "We are still that same team that dropped those close games to opponents that we, in the locker room, thought we should have won. That drives us. It's days like today where we have an opportunity to right all of our wrongs and make up for the past."
Navy scored the first two goals of the game before Army answered with two of its own to make the score 2-2 after the first quarter of play. Senior attackman Brendan Connors shook off an Army defender and scored from close range 49 seconds into the game, before junior attackman Andy Warner did the same to put the Mids up 2-0 at the 9:56 mark. Boltus would get into the action after grabbing a rebound on the Navy crease and scoring with 4:39 to play in the quarter, before Thul converted an 18-yard rocket from the right side two knot the game back up.
The squads would trade goals twice in the second quarter. Navy senior midfielder Patrick Moran would bounce home a tally at 12:46, before junior midfielder Rob McCallion would finish off a Boltus feed for a man-up goal at 7:42. Midshipmen senior midfielder Joe Lennon would score a nice goal in transition at at 5:20, before Army sophomore midfielder Devon Lynch started the Black Knights' run with a score off a pass from senior midfielder Andrew Maisano with 3:40 on the clock.
Boltus would hit a wide-open freshman attackman Garrett Thul on the Navy crease for the first of his four goal goals on the day to give Army a 5-4 lead at 2:11 that it would take into intermission. The Black Knights would keep hammering away in the third quarter as senior attackman Tyler Oates converted a low-lining rip from 11 yards away at the 12:46 mark, before Maisano ran in on goal after a strong dodge on the left side to make it a 7-4 lead at 7:18. McCallion hit an open Seymour on the Navy crease for a man-up conversion with 5:55 left in the period for the four-goal lead.
Navy would take advantage of an Army failure to advance foul and quickly score as senior LSM Zach Schroeder would score in transition with 1:43 to play in the third to halt a 18:37 scoring drought for the Midshipmen. Navy would score again to start the fourth as Connors took a pass from behind the Army goal from sophomore midfielder Nikk Davis and beat Palesky to pull the visitors within two, 8-6, with 12:56 to play in the game.
Thul would score what was perhaps the biggest goal of the game to halt the Navy run, backing down a defender 15 yards in front of the Navy goal before turning and unleashing a monster shot into the top-right corner of the goal at 9:09. O'Sullivan would follow with another long-range shot at 8:12 to put Navy back in a four-goal hole that it could not dig out of.
Navy freshman midfielder Evan Sullivan would find the net with 2:23 on the clock, before Moran scored with 1:51 remaining to cut to a two-goal deficit, but the Black Knights salted the game away with two huge possessions that included an empty-net goal by Boltus with 11 seconds to play to seal the win.
BLACK KNIGHT NOTES: Army's 17 ground ball advantage was its largest of the season, while the 36 pickups were the second-highest total of the season (40 vs. Lafayette) ... Army improved to 8-0 this season when leading after the third quarter and 7-1 when leading at halftime ... the Black Knights' 10-5 record is its highest win total since going 11-6 in 2005 on its way to an at-large bit to the NCAA Tournament ... after falling to Navy 13-striaght times from 1998-2007, Army has won three of the last four meetings ... Army won 12 of 24 faceoffs after finishing 4-for-20 in Friday's semifinal round against Bucknell ... junior attackman Jeremy Boltus leapt two slots to 12 on the all-time Academy scoring list with 141 points to date, while his three assists moved him into a tie for fifth with Paul Cino '83 with 78 ... freshman attackman Garrett Thul's 38 goals this season are tied for the 12th-highest single season total in Academy history, while Boltus' 63 points are tied for the seventh highest total ... junior goalkeeper Tom Palesky has compiled double-digit saves in 10 games this season and 23 of 31 games he has started since taking over the position last year ... this was Army's first Patriot League Championship since the conference went to a postseason tournament format to determine a champion in 2004, Navy won five (2004-07, '09) while Colgate captured the 2008 championship ... the 16-team field for the 2010 NCAA Tournament will be announced next Sunday, May 9th, at 8:30 p.m. EST, live on ESPNU. First-round competition will start on campus sites starting May 16-17.
Photos by Zach Babo.