A 12-3 victory over Holy Cross before 3,188 on Saturday at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium ended a two-game losing streak by the Midshipmen (4-4, 3-1 Patriot League).
Navy began spring break with a 15-8 loss to Lafayette on March 12. A 10-9 loss to Towson followed, on Wednesday.
Navy and the Crusaders (2-6, 1-1) had equally slow starts on Saturday. The first quarter featured a combined 15 turnovers -- one for each minute -- and only one goal, by Navy senior Brendan Connors with 1 minute 57 seconds left in the quarter.
Navy put the game away in the second quarter. Senior Patrick Moran scored twice, both on shots from 15 yards, and junior Andy Warner added another goal for a 4-0 halftime lead.
The lead was not threatened thanks to the defense: Navy held the Crusaders scoreless for the game's first 38:22.
Of particular importance was the performance of the defensive midfield. One game after giving up seven goals against Towson, the unit combined to give up two goals to Holy Cross midfielders, though one came in an unsettled situation.
The second goal, scored by freshman John Hannan, came with 1:10 to play.
"We took a step back and relaxed," Navy senior defensive longstick middie Jaren Woeppel said. "We know we can play good defense. ... Communication is key. If everyone is on the same page, we slide and recover, everyone has each other's back. And that's Navy defense."
Said Holy Cross Coach Adam Pascal: "At 1-0 and 3-0 I thought we were still in it. But their goalie got hot and Navy played a lot of offense."
Navy altered its offense for the game. Senior Joe Lennon moved to the second midfield, where he joined classmate Basil Daratsos and junior Brian Striffler. Junior Kevin Doyle was promoted to the starting unit.
The move appeared to work: Doyle, Daratsos and Striffler each had one goal and one assist.
Navy also scored in transition. Sophomore Nikk Davis scored on a right-to-left dodge past a defender for 7-0 lead midway through the third quarter. Warner also scored in transition, as did sophomore Ryan O'Leary early in the fourth quarter.
Navy almost had one other transition goal. With time running down in the first half, senior long-stick middie Zack Schroeder threw a long pass to senior Brendan Connors. Connors caught the ball and in a diving motion scored, but the shot came about a second after time had expired.
"Our coaches have been doing a great job the past couple weeks working on fundamentals. We've been falling short a little bit but today we did a lot of little things well, communication-wise. We're a team that's maturing a little bit and learning a little bit from our mistakes," Navy Coach Richie Meade said.
The one positive constant thus far has been the remarkable play of sophomore goalie RJ Wickham. He finished with 16 saves, including at least four on shots from five yards and closer.
One negative constant is Navy's struggles on face-offs. Holy Cross entered having won 38% of its face-offs. But sophomore A.J. Guarente won 12 of 19 on Saturday. Navy tried four face-off specialists, one from each academic class -- senior Robby Battle, sophomore Logan West, senior Frankie Coppola and freshman Will Fields.
The Midshipmen also used two longsticks as wings on face-offs, for the second consecutive game.
"I am aware of it and it's a source of annoyance to me," Meade said of the lack of face-off wins and groundballs.
As spring break came to an end, the sun was shining in Annapolis and it was nearly 70 degrees at gametime. The Midshipmen hope that the sunny outlook continues and they received one bit of good news with their third conference victory: No Patriot League has won three conference games and missed the conference tournament dating from 2005.
Win the conference tournament and the Midshipmen advance to the NCAA tournament.
"Everyone has been counting us out," Moran said. "But we have some great opportunities against some great teams. If we finish those, things are back to normal."
Navy Defeats Holy Cross
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