Lacrosse: Army 11, Navy 8

WEST POINT, NY -- Navy Coach Richie Meade had seen the formula that Army used in its 11-8 victory over Navy in the Patriot League tournament championship game before 2,078 fans on Sunday at Michie Stadium in West Point.

It was the formula the Midshipmen (7-8) had used in winning all five times it had made the conference championship game entering the weekend.

Army (10-5) clinched its first NCAA tournament berth since 2005 with a consistent effort that was predicated on ball control and wearing down Navy in the 90-degree heat.

There were many crucial sequences that went the way of the Black Knights. Perhaps the most important stretch came when Navy had closed to 8-6 on a goal on a one-handed shot by senior Brendan Connors with 12 minutes 56 seconds to play.

Navy won the ensuing face-off and sophomore Ryan O'Leary took a slow, 15-yard shot that was saved by Army junior goalie Tom Palesky with 11:55 left.

Army held the ball for the next 5:54. It scored twice -- on goals by freshman Garrett Thul and sophomore Sean O'Sullivan -- and won both ensuing face-offs in taking a 10-6 lead.

By the time Navy took its next shot after the attempt by O'Leary, it was a shot by Connors that went high with 2:30 to play. In all, the Midshipmen went without a shot for 9:25 at a time when they needed the ball the most.

"You're playing this game on two days rest," Meade said. "And in the past we've been the team that has cracked the game open late in the third quarter. I know what that feels like, it becomes very difficult to come back. Normally that has worked in our favor. ... At 8-6 I thought we had some momentum. But they kept possession and got those two goals, and it became very difficult."

Navy closed to 10-8 on a goal by senior Patrick Moran with 1:51 to play but did not get closer. Moran and Connors each finished with two goals for Navy. Thul had a game-high three goals and junior Jeremy Boltus added two goals and three assists for the Black Knights.

Navy started the better of the two teams. Connors beat Army co-captain Alex Gephart on a dodge to the goal and scored on the first shot of the game. It was 2-0 after Warner scored after another Army co=captain, junior Bill Henderson, slipped to the ground and left Warner in a one-on-one with junior goalie Tom Palesky.

With the game seemingly in the balance -- or at least with a chance to make an impressive opening statement -- the Midshipmen had two shots with a 2-0 lead. Palesky saved both -- one from senior Joe Lennon and the other from junior Kevin Doyle.

And Army got goals from Boltus and Thul to tie the game at 2 at the end of the first quarter.

Navy trailed 5-4 at halftime, and the third quarter proved problematic. The Black Knights took an 8-4 lead following an extra-man goal by senior Tyler Seymour with 5:55 left in the quarter. As Army began the quarter with three goals on five shots, the Midshipmen opened the half with three consecutive turnovers.

"In the second and third quarter, we gave up too many possessions," Meade said.

Said Warner: "In the first quarter we scored a couple real quick goals and they were over-extended a little bit. I thought we had some opportunities after that to put some more points on the board, and it could have been a different ball game."

Instead, just as Navy had done in all five of its previous appearances in the conference championship game, it was Army that received the trophy and will advance to the NCAA tournament.

"Our defense played so well," Palesky said. "They did all the work in front of me, all the shots I was seeing were outside shots. Our scout team, everyone worked so hard for this."

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