In the last two weeks, Navy has drawn over 26,000 fans to Annapolis to watch the Mids defeat No. 6 Maryland and No. 4 Army. The 14,124 and 12,117 fans which have seen the last two Navy wins mark the third and fourth-largest home crowds in Navy lacrosse history, respectively.
Army opened up an early 2-0 lead on the Mids, which featured the first of four goals by senior attack Jim Wagner on the afternoon. Wagner scored at 11:47 and rookie attack Matt Scheel took advantage of an errant pass by Navy freshman Nick Mirabito (Binghamton, N.Y.). Mirabito's pass to teammate William Wallace (Bloomfield Village, Mich.) was out of his reach and Scheel quickly took advantage of the unsettled play and scored an unassisted goal at 8:11.
The Mids finally got on the scoreboard at 6:41 in the first when junior All-American Steve Looney (Silver Spring, Md.) found senior attack Ben Horn (Mill Valley, Calif.) who tucked in his 18th goal of the season.
Army won the ensuing face-off, however, draw specialist Tony Vozzolo was unable to hang onto the ball. Navy face-off man Chris Pieczonka (Hamburg, N.Y.) scooped up the ball, but found himself double-teamed and unable to find an open teammate. He tried to unload the ball, but mistakingly threw it right in front of Navy's goal. Walker quickly picked up the ball and sent it sailing into the net past Navy keeper Matt Russell (Madison, Conn.) from about five yards out to give Army a 3-1 advantage.
Navy continued its solid play on extra-man as Steve Looney scored his first goal of the afternoon on an assist from Jon Birsner (Levittown, N.Y.) at 3:48 after Army's Nick Doerr was called for interference.
The Mids knotted the score (3-3) at the buzzer as senior All-American defender Mitch Hendler (Reisterstown, Md.) took a bouncing shot which snuck past Army keeper Matt Darak.
"We practice clearing and coach says 'if you have a shot, take it,'" said Hendler. "Mike (Felber) had the ball and I broke out. He passed the ball and I headed down the field. I looked up at the scoreboard and there were two seconds left and thought what the heck. I couldn't believe that it went in."
Navy took the lead for good early in the second stanza, as Birsner scored on an unassisted goal at 14:20. The Mids took a 5-3 advantage when senior midfielder Graham Gill (Medford, N.J.) found last year's Patriot League Rookie of the Year Billy Looney (Silver Spring, Md.) who powered in the first of three goals on the afternoon at 9:56 in the second quarter.
The Black Knights stopped the Mids' scoring streak of four in a row when Scheel saw an open Walker who connected on his first goal of the contest at 8:01. Army and Navy went on to trade goals, as Navy took a slim 6-5 lead into the locker room at half.
The Navy coaching staff apparently made some changes during halftime because the Midshipmen came out of the locker room a new team. Navy opened the second half by scoring four-straight goals by four different players, including the game winner by senior middie Dwayne Osgood (Penn Yan, N.Y.) at 6:58 in the third. Haunted by knee and hamstring injuries throughout his career, Osgood's goal marked his first-career game-winner and just his second goal of the 2005 campaign.
With 4:43 to play in the third, Navy was flagged twice, a one-minute slash and a 30-second push, putting the Mids two men down. Army took advantage of the opportunity with Wagner and Walker hooking up for the second time.
Once again, as time was running out, Navy found itself in scoring position. This time Horn found Billy Looney who gave Navy a 11-6 lead with just 12 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
"The third quarter for us today was probably the best quarter we've played all year with maybe the exception of the second quarter against North Carolina," said Navy head coach Richie Meade.
Thought the Black Knights were faced with a five-goal deficit heading into the fourth quarter, they battled their way back into the game. Army outscored the Mids 3-1 in the final quarter of play, but were unable to overcome the deficit.
"I have tremendous respect for Army and I never really felt comfortable in the game because they've come back from being down before," said Meade. "They were very good today and I was impressed with how hard they played and the intensity they played with. They really battled with us.
"We've come a long way back from two weeks ago against Georgetown," Meade added. "I think the only thing that stopped us today was our shooting. Giving up nine goals is a little disappointing, but we scored 12 and I'm happy with that."
"When it counted, Navy's stick work, ability to possess the ball, the speed in the middle of the field and ground balls made the difference," said Army head coach Jack Emmer. "It's probably where the game was won. Our guys kept pressing them, but to Navy's credit, they kept coming to the goal."
Billy Looney led the Mids with three goals, while Horn, Steve Looney and Mirabito turned in two-goal efforts. Horn added a pair of assists, as did Birsner. Russell had another solid effort in the goal, stopping 10 shots, including multiple point-blank shots by the Black Knights.
Army was led by Wagner's four goals and Walker's two goals and four assists. Goalkeepers Darak and freshman Adam Fullerton combined for 10 saves.
"John Walker is one hell'uva player," said Hendler who was matched up against one of the premier scorers in the country. "He's an amazing athlete and he's definitely faster than me, so I have to adjust how I play him."
Navy's win over Army puts the Mids (5-1) in a three-way tie with Army (4-1) and Bucknell (4-1) for first place in the Patriot League, as all three teams have one loss. Army rounds out its Patriot League schedule Tuesday with a road game at Holy Cross, while Bucknell finishes conference action next Saturday at Colgate. If Army defeats the Crusaders, Navy will be the No. 1 seed and host of the Patriot League Tournament which will be played April 29 and May 1. Should Holy Cross upset the Black Knights and Bucknell defeats Colgate, Bucknell would host the tournament by virtue of its win over the Mids in both teams' league opener. If Army and Bucknell both lose next week, the Mids will host the tournament by virtue of only suffering one league loss during the season.
The Mids return to action next Saturday when they face longtime rival and the top-ranked team in the country Johns Hopkins. It will mark the 78th meeting between the two teams with the Blue Jays owning a decisive 51-25-1 series advantage. Hopkins has claimed wins in each of the last 30 games with the Mids' last victory coming May 4, 1974 in the form of a 13-12 Navy triumph in Annapolis. Navy hasn't beaten Johns Hopkins on their home field since 1969 (9-6 Navy). Action is set for 1 p.m. at Homewood Field. Navy's flagship station 1430 WNAV will carry the game live via the internet and tape delayed on the radio. Meanwhile, Baltimore-based WMAR-TV (Ch. 2) will air the battle live with ESPNU picking up the game, as well.
Goals By Period 1 2 3 4 F Army (9-2/4-1 PL) 3 2 1 3 - 9 Navy (9-2/5-1) 3 3 5 1 - 12