ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Navy senior midfielder Graham Gill (Medford, N.J.) was named the Patriot League Tournament MVP after scoring four goals and adding a pair of assists in the Mids' 15-8 victory over ninth-ranked and second-seeded Army in the Patriot League Championship Sunday afternoon at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. The win gave Navy its second-consecutive Patriot League Tournament crown, while also pushing the Mids' winning streak to nine over the Black Knights.
In the 81-game history, this year marked just the third time in which the two teams have met twice in one season. In 1978 and '81, the two teams battled during the regular season and went on to face each other in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament. Navy swept Army in 1978, winning 16-13 and 16-15, while splitting in '81, losing 9-8 in the regular season and winning 16-10 in the postseason.
"I'm really happy with winning the game and playing as hard as we played today," said Navy head coach Richie Meade. "Army played very hard, as we expected them to, but I think our experience in playing two games in 48 hours helped us. We are excited to win the Patriot League Championship. It's important for our athletic department and our team and I appreciate the support we have gotten.
In a game that eerily mirrored the regular-season battle between the two teams, Army built a 2-0 lead on the Mids who were unable to score until converting a man-up shot by freshman attack Nick Mirabito (Binghamton, N.Y.) at the 7:14 mark in the opening period.
Much like the first go-around, Army stopped any momentum Navy might gain when junior attack John Walker scored the first of his five goals with 4:11 remaining in the first quarter, giving the Black Knights a 3-1 advantage heading into the second 15 minutes.
Army rookie goalkeeper Adam Fullerton was instrumental in stopping the Mids' attack early in the game, as he stopped six of Navy's seven shots on goal.
"Adam Fullerton did an outstanding job in the first quarter," said Meade.
Sparked by a goal from Gill just 25 seconds into the second quarter, Navy went on to outscore Army 5-2 in the half and the Mids held a 6-5 advantage at the half. The 6-5 halftime score and Navy lead was the exact score of the regular-season contest between the Mids and Black Knights. Gill scored a pair of goals and added an assist in the flurry of Navy's second-quarter lift, while junior attack Jon Birsner (Levittown, N.Y.) aided two Navy goals.
In the opening minutes of the second half, the Mids strung together three-consecutive goals and went on to outscore their archrival, 6-2, in the third quarter. It was exactly how the Mids got it done in the regular-season game, as well, as Navy ran past Army, 5-1, in the third quarter of the earlier meeting.
"We've been a good team in the third quarter all year," added Meade. "I think we did a good job of seizing the momentum. It was important for us to generate a lot of energy and I think that was key today."
Senior long stick defensive midfielder Seth DiNola (Ballston Lake, N.Y.) triggered the Mids' third-quarter scoring streak with a goal 19 seconds into the half. For DiNola, a converted goalkeeper and Navy's team captain, it was his first-collegiate goal. Sophomore midfielder Billy Looney (Silver Spring, Md.) added two goals in the quarter, while Birsner assisted on a pair of goals and Mirabito scored his third goal of the afternoon.
"Seth may have played the best game of his career today," said Meade. "He scored a goal, he created a fast break, he was all over the field."
Navy outscored the Black Knights 11-4 in the second and third quarters combined to put the game out of reach for the Black Knights.
Navy added three security goals in the final quarter, as the Mids produced a season-high 15 goals and the most since last spring's 15-5 Patriot League Tournament semifinal victory over Colgate at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
"Today's game was amazingly similar to the last game (vs. Navy)," said Army head coach Jack Emmer. "Navy did a good job in the second quarter of getting it to 6-5. We fully understood that we needed to come out and take control of the game in the second half, but Navy did a better job of that than us.
"Navy's play in the middle of the field makes it hard for us to contend with," Emmer added. "The difference in the game is the their middies in the middle of the field. We needed to keep them under control and we didn't do a good job of it.
"Unfortunately we have a good team, but Navy has a better team. I'm frustrated with this Navy thing, but I think we have more opportunities to move on to and look ahead to. One of these days we're going to beat this Naval Academy team - maybe it'll be in the NCAA Tournament."
Despite the outcome, Army earned a 26-24 ground ball advantage over the Mids and just edged out Navy in face-offs, winning 14 of the 27 draws.
Gill led Navy with his four goals and two assists, while Birsner, who did not play the second half of Friday's semifinal contest against Lehigh because of a blow he took at the back of the head, turned in a goal and five assists. Birsner now owns 69-career assists and has moved into the Patriot League's top-10 assists list where he stands ninth.
Walker led Army with five goals on eights shots on goal, while Jim Wagner, Matt Scheel and Tony Vozzolo rounded out the Black Knights' scoring.
Goals By Period 1 2 3 4 OT F
Army (11-4) 3 2 2 1 - 8
Navy (11-3) 1 5 6 3 - 15
Army: (G-A-P) John Walker 5-0-5, Matt Scheel 1-1-2, Tony Vozzolo
1-0-1, Jim Wagner 1-0-1, Chris Couch 0-1-1, Brian Green 0-1-1, Erik
Navy: (G-A-P) Graham Gill 4-2-6, Jon Birsner 1-5-6, Nick Mirabito
3-0-3, Ben Horn 2-1-3, Billy Looney 2-1-3, Steve Looney 1-1-2, Seth
DiNola 1-0-1, William Wallace 1-0-1.
Shots: Army (32) 8-11-4-9; Navy (40) 11-9-11-9
Ground Balls: Army (26) 8-6-6-6; Navy (24) 8-6-5-5
Saves: Army (12) 6-1-2-3; Navy (8) 1-3-1-3
Face-Offs: Army 14 of 27, Navy 13 of 27
Clears: Army 13 of 17, Navy 21 of 23
Extra-Man: Army 2 of 3, Navy 2 of 4
Penalties: Army 4 (2:30), Navy 3 (2:00)
PD Time Team EMO Scorer/Assist
1 14:53 A E Matt Scheel (16) from Erik Mineo
1 12:05 A E John Walker (32) unassisted
1 7:14 N Up Nick Mirabito (21) from Graham Gill
1 4:11 A E John Walker (33) unassisted
2 14:36 N E Graham Gill (14) unassisted
2 13:37 N E Nick Mirabito (22) from Steve Looney
2 10:09 A Up John Walker (34) from Brian Green
2 9:10 N E Ben Horn (22) from Jon Birsner
2 6:58 N E Graham Gill (15) from Jon Birsner
2 5:29 A E Jim Wagner (40) from Chris Couch
2 5:22 N E William Wallace (7) unassisted
3 14:41 N E Seth DiNola (1) from Ben Horn
3 12:47 N E Nick Mirabito (23) from Graham Gill
3 11:37 N E Graham Gill (16) unassisted
3 11:31 A E Tony Vozzolo (1) unassisted
3 8:57 N E Billy Looney (17) from Jon Birsner
3 8:46 A E John Walker (35) from Matt Scheel
3 1:26 N E Ben Horn (23) from Jon Birsner
3 0:39 N E Billy Looney (18) unassisted
4 11:30 N E Jon Birsner (11) unassisted
4 5:27 A Up John Walker (36) unassisted
4 4:40 N E Graham Gill (17) from Billy Looney
4 2:21 N Up Steve Looney (22) from Jon Birsner
() - # goals this year