April 30, 2010

Seymour, Palesky Lead Army to Patriot Final

by Ken McMillan | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online | PL Semifinals Blog

Army goalie Tom Palesky made 17 saves Friday in the Black Knights' 9-7 comeback victory over Bucknell in the Patriot League semifinals

WEST POINT, N.Y. – Tyler Seymour is a good sport. He can laugh about his diminished shooting accuracy, but he’s going to keep on plugging.

Jeremy Boltus and Garrett Thul may be the catalysts of the Army lacrosse offense, but Seymour has his share of good days, too. Friday was one of those days when the Black Knights needed it most.

Seymour scored four second-half goals to help Army overcome another slow start against Bucknell as the top-seeded Black Knights earned a hard-fought 9-7 semifinal victory in the Patriot League tournament. Bucknell had eliminated Army in the tourney semifinals each of the past two seasons.
Seymour deflected the accolades following his career-best scoring effort to his teammates.

“It’s nice but it’s even better to get the win and be able to play for a Patriot League championship,’’ said Seymour, a senior from Nashua, N.H., who will branch aviation upon his graduation in May.

Army (9-5), which got off to a 1-4 start in the season, has won six in a row and seven of its last eight games. On Sunday, the Black Knights will vie for their first league tournament championship when they host service academy rival and No. 2 seed Navy at 3 p.m.

“I am not sure we go into it as a big favorite,’’ Army coach Joe Alberici said.

The Black Knights are perfect through seven Patriot League matches, but they are mindful that all three wins against the final four teams came by one goal and on the road.

Bucknell drops to 8-6 with the loss.

Trailing 4-0 after 18 minutes and 5-2 at halftime, Army came out playing more inspired ball in the second half. League rookie of the year Garrett Thul scored 74 seconds into the third quarter, breaking the Army freshman record of 34 goals set by three-time All-America John Walker. Sean O’Sullivan drew Army within 5-4 just 70 seconds later.

Seymour produced the tying goal with 55.5 seconds left in the third quarter. He was out front when teammate Devin Lynch fired a pass over the cage to his waiting stick.

Bucknell didn’t flinch, however. The Bison scored twice early in the fourth. Chris Palmer was on the right wing and made a hard cut to the middle, scoring on a shot while he was falling. Charlie Streep restored the two-goal advantage 64 seconds later with a big whip shot from 11 yards out.

Seymour would score the next three goals to put Army back on top. Defenseman Larry LoRusso made a long run upfield before dumping the ball to Boltus, who made a short pass to Seymour on the left edge of the circle for the goal. Seymour was the final recipient of a four-player perimeter passing play for the tying score with 11 minutes left.

“Our offense has been the most unselfish it’s been in the entire four years I’ve been here,’’ Seymour said. “Just the ability for guys to find the next pass and throw one more for people to score … it’s incredible. Being opportunistic with the ball, looking for the next pass and everyone being able to shoot the ball, it makes our offense very dangerous.’’

Seymour scored the go-ahead goal with 4:59 to play, coming around the cage and beating Bucknell’s Kyle Feeney from the left side.

“I shot the ball well today,’’ said Seymour, who came into the game with a .250 shooting percentage. He now has 20 goals this season. “I haven’t shot the ball well all year.’’

Bucknell pulled Feeney out of the net for some double-team pressure, but Boltus recognized it and hit Rob McCallion with a rolling pass that only he could reach. With one step to the inside to get room on his defender, McCallion fired into the open net for a two-goal lead with 1:54 to play.

Second-team all-league goalie Tom Palesky played a brilliant game. He made 17 stops, and was able to shake off the four early goals that Bucknell scored. Palesky made 21 saves in a loss at Syracuse and 18 stops in a win over Lafayette this season.

“The defense really clamped down,’’ Alberici said. “Tommy was nothing short of terrific – with 17 saves, that is just outstanding.’’

Bucknell threatened to run away with this game from the outset. The Bison held possession for the first 10 minutes of the game and built an 11-0 lead in shots before Army could even respond. The Bison moved the ball very effectively and picked up goals from Ryan Klipstein, Billy Eisenreich and Nick Gantsoudes in the opening quarter and a tally from Austin Winter just 2:45 into the second.

“Going into half, we were happy to be ahead, but we should have been ahead by more,’’ Bucknell coach Frank Fedorjaka said. “Their goalie Palesky played outstanding and kept them in the game. We hit a few pipes. They were within reach. We knew that. They are Army so they are not going away.’’

Fedorjaka said it was important for his team to get off to a good start in the third quarter, but that didn’t happen. A depleted Bison lineup started to wither in the heat and humidity under a late-afternoon sun and started to turn the ball over (six times in the third, four more in the fourth) and take easier shots for Palesky to stop.

Army won despite its season-long inability to win faceoffs – Bucknell won 16 of 20 draws (and two of those losses came by violation).

Army lost to Navy in the Patriot League tourney title game in 2005 and 2006. The Black Knights last made the NCAA tournament, as an at-large team, in 2005.

Alberici said the team that is able to forget about Friday’s win and move on to the task at hand on Sunday will have a great advantage.

“We have to be very mature and very humble and make sure we can move on to the next one because we know we will face a heck of an opponent,’’ Alberici said, hours before Navy knocked off Lafayette, 11-9, in the second semifinal.

Army outlasted Navy, 7-6, in Baltimore on April 17.


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