BALTIMORE, Md. - A run of three-straight goals late in the fourth quarter
proved too much for the Navy lacrosse team to overcome as Syracuse rallied for a
14-13 victory in front of an NCAA National Championship Game record crowd of
43,898 Monday afternoon at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.
"I'm obviously disappointed that we didn't win the game today, but I'm very proud of our team," said Navy head coach Richie Meade. "I'm not sure if we did as good a job defensively if we could have, but Syracuse played awfully well."
"Today was very emotional," said Syracuse head coach John Desko. "This game was a very different championship game, because of our opponent. The United States Naval Academy, Richie Meade and his staff just had a real sense of pride. I was so proud of them being there and the way they played all season. They played with a bigger cause and to go out and play them, it didn't have the feel of a typical opponent. We were pulling for them as well."
"We were playing a lacrosse team today. Some people took it a little too far," said Syracuse's Mike Powell who was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player. "We weren't trying to beat our country or even the Naval Academy, we were just trying to beat another team in the National Championship game, a team that was one of the most talented teams I've ever seen in college lacrosse."
A balanced first quarter saw neither team able to hold more than a one-goal advantage. Navy scored first when Ben Bailey scored an extra man goal from eight yards out less than two minutes into the contest. Syracuse answered by scoring a pair of goals over the next three minutes to take a 2-1 lead with 10:17 to play in the period.
Navy's Adam Reel tied the score on a goal with 9:03 to play, but Syracuse's Alex Zink gave the Orange a 3-2 lead on a goal with 5:17 left on the clock, which was soon followed by another Navy goal to tie the score, this time when Billy Looney scored off a pass from brother Steve Looney. A Brett Bucktooth goal once again gave Syracuse the slimmest of leads when he scored with 51 seconds to play, but a Graham Gill tally with three seconds remaining in the period tied the score for the fourth time at 4-4.
Navy's Chris Pieczonka won the second period faceoff and immediately raced down to field and found Joe Bossi open to the left of the cage to give Navy a 5-4 lead just 13 seconds into the quarter. Syracuse would erase the deficit quickly by scoring three-straight goals over a four-minute span to take a 7-5 lead with 10:24 to play. As the rains started to fall harder in Baltimore, the game soon became a defensive effort with both keepers - Navy's Matt Russell and Syracuse's Jay Pfeifer - coming up with several big stops.
"Their goalie came up big several times," said Meade. He made several big saves for them."
Navy leading scorer on the season, Ian Dingman, picked up his first goal of the weekend during a man-advantage situation with 5:50 to play, then a Ben Horn goal off a Dingman pass with 41 seconds left in the period tied the score at seven. The assist was Dingman's 100th point of his career.
After Syracuse (Steve Vallone) and Navy (Jon Birsner) goals in the opening five minutes of the third period tied the score at eight the Orange scored a pair of goals in less than a one minute span to take a 10-8 lead with 4:03 left in the period and held that advantage heading into the fourth quarter.
"Four or five times they had a chance to pull away from us, but we always fought back ," said Meade.
The Mids began the final quarter with a man advantage thanks to a Syracuse penalty towards the end of the third period and capitalized when Birsner found Horn in front of the net at the 14:08 mark to cut the deficit to 10-9. Navy would soon record the eighth tie of the game when Dingman threw a pass from the right side of the net to the left and found Birsner open from about five yards out. Navy would add its third goal of the period and take an 11-10 lead at the 9:59 mark when Bossi scored from 10 yards out from the right side of the goal, but on Syracuse's next possession a pair of Navy penalties gave the Orange a two-man advantage. Sean Lindsay would score for the Orange with 8:58 to play to tie the score at 11-11.
After a Syracuse turnover, caused by Jared Bosanko knocking the stick out of Mike Powell's hands, Bosanko fed new keeper Colin Finnegan - who entered with 8:01 to play in the final period due to a Matt Russell shoulder injury -- who found a streaking Clipper Lennon just shy of midfield. Lennon continued running unimpeded down the middle of the offensive end and ripped a shot into the back of the net to give Navy a 12-11 lead with 5:40 to play.
"I am very proud of Matt Russell, who played the third quarter with a dislocated shoulder," said Meade. He displayed the type of courage that we expect from Midshipmen at the Naval Academy."
Navy's lead would be short lived as Brian Crockett scored with 4:57 to play to tie the game at 12-12.
Pieczonka won another faceoff for Navy, but the Mids were unable to get a shot off. Syracuse would score on its ensuing possession when Powell found a diving Nee with 3:37 to play. After Navy again controlled the faceoff, Dingman was stopped on a close shot by Pfeifer with 2:30 to play. Syracuse began to take some time off the clock, but Jake Plunket overthrew his teammate and the ball went out of bounds to Navy with 2:01 to play.
After a Navy timeout, the Mids worked the ball around on offense when Billy Looney threw the ball back towards the midfield line where it was picked up by the Orange who started a 3-on-1 break that saw Nee find Powell with one minute left on the clock.
Pieczonka again won the faceoff and the ball quickly was passed to Dingman who muscled his way through the Orange defense for a goal to bring the Mids to within 14-13 with 40 seconds to play.
Pieczonka, who won 20 of 28 faceoffs on the day, won the battle in the circle again and this time kept it for himself. As he wound up to shoot from 15 yards out his stick was hit by an Orange defender and his shot went out of bounds with 31 seconds remaining.
After a Syracuse timeout, the Orange threw the ball across midfield to escape the Navy pressure and it was soon picked up on the fly by Navy's Trevor Hostleton in front of the Navy net with 19 seconds to play. Navy quickly worked the ball upfield, but the Orange scooped up a loose ball in front of the Syracuse cage with five seconds to play and was able to run out the clock.
"We expected to win today," said Meade. We weren't the little brother getting a pat on the head for a good job of getting here. It was a great story, but we were a good team. Our kids should be admired, though, for what they go through on a daily basis. I know I couldn't do it."
"It was a great honor playing here today," said Dingman. "Every lacrosse team in the country wanted to be playing today. Playing on Memorial Day and being in the military is extra special. Honoring our veterans in all the wars, I hope they aren't anything but proud of us."
NAVY GAME NOTES
- Navy's Graham Gill and Mitch Hendler were both named to the NCAA All-Tournament team
- Navy was making its second NCAA Title Game appearance and the first since 1975
- Navy played its third-straight one-goal game in the NCAA Tournament. The Mids were 4-2 in one-goal games this year.
- The loss was Navy's first away from Annapolis this year (8-1).
- The 14 goals scored by Syracuse was the most by a Navy opponent this year (12, Feb. 28, Ohio State).
- Ian Dingman cracked the 100-point mark in his career today (finished with 102), becoming the first Navy sophomore to score 100 points. He is also just the third Mid to tally 100-career points in their first-two seasons of eligibility.
- Dingman's 62 points this year ranks sixth in Navy history.
- Navy scooped up 60 ground balls to 39 for Syracuse.
- Colin Finnegan entered the game in goal midway through the fourth quarter. It was his first appearance since the semifinal game of the Patriot League Tournament - April 30 vs. Colgate, five games ago.
- Navy ended the season with a 15-3 record. The 15 wins are a school record (11 wins in both 1949 and '78), while the three losses are the fewest since three setbacks in 1978.
The STX/USILA All-American team was announced during the game. Navy's lone
first-team representative was Matt Russell (goal), while Ian Dingman (attack)
was named second team. Ben Bailey (midfield) and Mitch Hendler (defense) were
named to the third team, while Joe Bossi (attack), Graham Gill (midfield) and
Steve Looney (midfield) received honorable mention
Syracuse Scoring (G-A-P): Mike Powell (1-5-6), Brian Nee (3-2-5), Brian Crockett (3-0-3), Sean Lindsay (2-0-2), Alex Zink (2-0-2), Steve Vallone (1-1-2), Greg Rommel (1-0-1), Brett Bucktooth (1-0-1), Kevin Dougherty (0-1-1), Jarrett Park (0-1-1)
Navy Scoring (G-A-P): Jon Birsner (2-3-5), Ian Dingman (2-2-4), Joe Bossi (2-0-2), Ben Horn (2-0-2), Graham Gill (1-0-1), Ben Bailey (1-0-1), Billy Looney (1-0-1), Clipper Lennon (1-0-1), Taylor Harris (1-0-1), Steve Looney (0-1-1), Chris Pieczonka (0-1-1), Adam Reel (0-1-1
Ground Balls: Syracuse (39) 13-7-11-8; Navy (60) 14-16-12-18
Saves: Syracuse (15) 2-4-5-4; Navy (6) 1-2-1-2
Turnovers: Syracuse (19) 4-5-6-4; Navy (15) 4-4-1-6
Face-Offs: Syracuse 10 for 30; Navy 20 for 30
Clears: Syracuse 15 for 24; Navy 14 for 16
Extra-Man: Syracuse 2 for 2; Navy 3 for 6
N - S Time Team Goal / Assist
1 - 0 13:07 Navy Ben Bailey (22) / unassisted - EMG
1 - 1 11:38 SU Brian Crockett (37) / unassisted
1 - 2 10:17 SU Greg Rommel (13) / Mike Powell
2 - 2 9:03 Navy Adam Reel (3) / Taylor Harris
2 - 3 5:17 SU Alex Zink (14) / Mike Powell
3 - 3 2:16 Navy Billy Looney (13) / Steve Looney
3 - 4 0:51 SU Brett Bucktooth (9) / unassisted
4 - 4 0:03 Navy Graham Gill (24) / Jon Birsner
5 - 4 14:47 Navy Joe Bossi (43) / Chris Pieczonka
5 - 5 13:31 SU Sean Lindsay (28) / unassisted
5 - 6 12:37 SU Brian Nee (30) / Kevin Doherty
5 - 7 10:24 SU Brian Nee (31) / unassisted
6 - 7 5:58 Navy Ian Dingman (35) / Jon Birsner - EMG
7 - 7 0:41 Navy Ben Horn (14) / Ian Dingman
7 - 8 11:30 SU Steve Vallone (22) / Mike Powell
8 - 8 9:57 Navy Jon Birsner (10) / unassisted
8 - 9 4:58 SU Brian Crockett (38) / Jared Park
8 - 10 4:03 SU Alex Zink (15) / Mike Powell - EMG
9 - 10 14:08 Navy Ben Horn (15) / Jon Birsner - EMG
10 - 10 12:15 Navy Jon Birsner (11) / Chris Dingman
11 - 10 9:59 Navy Joe Bossi (44) / unassisted
11 - 11 8:58 SU Sean Lindsay (29) / Brian Nee
12 - 11 5:40 Navy Clipper Lennon (3) / unassisted
12 - 12 4:57 SU Brian Crockett (39) / Steve Vallone
12 - 13 3:37 SU Brian Nee (32) / Mike Powell
12 - 14 1:00 SU Mike Powell (47) / Brian Nee
13 - 14 0:40 Navy Ian Dingman (36) / unassisted