LAX: Navy tops Bucknell, 9-5

SAN DIEGO, Calif. Junior William Wallace (Bloomfield Village, Mich.) won 16 of 17 face-offs and earned Most Valuable Player recognition as he led the fourth-ranked Navy lacrosse team (3-0/1-0 Patriot League) to a 9-5 victory over Bucknell (1-3/0-1 Patriot League) in the First 4 Invitational played at Torero Stadium in San Diego, Calif. Third-ranked Duke defeated No. 20 Loyola in the first game of the doubleheader, 9-7.

"Both teams were a little tentative tonight and I'm not sure that either team played their best game, but we both played a physical, tough game," said Navy head coach Richie Meade. "Offensively, I thought we executed well. Defensively, once we regrouped after their first two goals, I thought we did a good job, especially in the second half.

"This was a great experience to play out here and we were extremely excited to come and play in front of the fleet," added Meade. "It was an opportunity for us to represent the Navy and Marine Corps in a prominent Navy town. This was a positive experience for our team both on and off the field."

Bucknell grabbed the upper hand early in the game, taking a 2-0 lead with more than nine minutes to play in the opening period. John Togneri and Nick Marks each found the back of the net on Bucknell's first two shots of the contest.

The Bison defense held Navy scoreless until the final minute of the first stanza as sophomore attack Nick Mirabito (Binghamton, N.Y.) scored on a heady inbounds pass by classmate Terence Higgins (Chappaqua, N.Y.). Bucknell was caught paying too much attention to the mid-field and Higgins saw Mirabito who stood in front of an empty net.

Mirabito's goal gave Navy the momentum heading into the second quarter, as Navy went on to outscore Bucknell 4-2 in the second quarter. The Mids opened the second quarter with a goal by senior co-captain Jon Birsner (Levittown, N.Y.) who targeted a shot off an assist from Billy Looney (Silver Spring, Md.) and knotted the game at two apiece.

The Bison countered with a man-up goal by Perry Menzies who was fed by Tommy Moore, giving Bucknell a 3-2 advantage with 8:38 remaining in the first half.

Navy scored three-unanswered goal, including back-to-back extra-man strikes by Looney and Mirabito to give Navy a 5-3 lead with 4:42 to go.

Bucknell's Steve Case gave the Bison some momentum heading into the half by scoring an unassisted goal 35 seconds before the halftime intermission and narrowed Navy's lead to just one (5-4).

Navy's defensive unit had a solid second half, giving up just one goal in the final 30 minutes of action. Navy, meanwhile, scored four more goals before game's end, including two extra-man goals and a pair of targets by junior midfielder Tommy Wallin (Mountain Lakes, N.J.).

Defensively, Navy co-captain Matt Russell (Madison, Conn.) made six saves, while Bucknell's Matt Baran stopped seven Navy shots on goal.

While Navy outshot Bucknell 37-15, the Bison were precise in their possessions early on. In fact, Bucknell scored goals on four of its first five shots.

Wallace was nearly unstoppable at the face-off "x" where he won 16 of the 17 draws he took. He was instrumental in the Mids' possessing the ball and getting multiple goal-scoring opportunities.

The Mids were successful in their extra-man game, scoring four goals on seven opportunities, while Navy's man-down defense held strong, giving up just one goal on five tries.

Navy's clearing game was suspect, as the Mids failed to clear on eight trips down the field. Several times Bucknell's defense forced the Mids to heave the ball downfield.

The Midshipmen, who are on spring break, will practice in San Diego Sunday before returning to Annapolis to play host to Patriot League foe Lafayette Wednesday afternoon. Game time is set for a 12:00 pm face-off at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.


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