Army Beats Navy for Patriot League Title
by Ken McMillan| Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online | Game Blog
WEST POINT, N.Y.— The Army lacrosse team
wants to star in its own version of “Men in
Black,’’ but there’s no need to call Will Smith
and Tommy Lee Jones.
“Back to Black” was the theme for Army’s third appearance in the Patriot League tournament final on Sunday. If Army beat rival Navy, the Black Knights would assuredly go on the road for its NCAA tournament opener in two weeks time and break out the road black jerseys. Coach Joe Alberici hung one in the Army locker room just to illustrate his point.
Mark the calendar for the weekend of May 15, because Army will make its first NCAA appearance in five years and 16th overall following an 11-8 victory over Navy before 2,078 fans at Michie Stadium on a hot, hazy and humid afternoon.
“We will be an underdog and at someone’s place,’’ said coach Joe Alberici, who leads Army into the NCAAs for the first time in his fifth season since replacing Hall of Famer Jack Emmer. “We will take who it is and do our best to game plan for them and stay with the formula that has been successful for us the last couple of months.’’
Army’s 1-4 start would be completely forgotten except for the fact Alberici keeps reminding his players of it to keep them humble. The Black Knights (10-5) have rolled off seven consecutive wins, and have won all eight of its Patriot League contests (including playoffs).
Army’s best day, said Alberici, was perhaps one of Navy’s worst, said Mids coach Richie Meade. Navy made far too many mistakes and Army made the Midshipmen pay dearly. Army was 4-for-7 with the extra man while holding Navy to 1-for-4 on man-ups. Navy turned the ball over 13 times to Army’s 12, and the Mids were thoroughly outhustled for ground balls, 36-19.
Even Army’s awful faceoff game – ranked 55th in the
nation – managed to win half of the 24 draws.
“I thought they (Army) played consistently well throughout the entire game," Meade said. “I think that this game was decided by mistakes, and Army made fewer mistakes than we did."
Navy finishes the season at 7-8, its first losing record since going 6-7 in 2003.
Army was led by three of its Patriot League all-stars. Junior Jeremy Boltus attackman had two goals and three assists. Garrett Thul – the league’s rookie of the year – scored three times. Junior Tom Palesky, a second-team all-star, put the finishing touches on tourney MVP honors with 12 stops.
Navy picked up two goals apiece from Brendan Connors and leading goal scorer Patrick Moran. Second-leading scorer Andy Warner had just one. Goalie R.J. Wickham made eight saves.
Connors and Warner staked Navy to a 2-0 lead in the opening five minutes, but Army managed to move ahead 5-4 by halftime, with six Navy turnovers a major culprit in the second quarter.
“If we would have put a few more points on the board, it could have been a different game," Warner said.
Army surged to an 8-4 lead in the third quarter on goals by Tyler Oates, Andrew Maisano and Tyler Seymour.
The game certainly wasn’t over, but the mental game had
“That separated us," said Boltus, who has 26 goals and a team-leading 63 points. “We scored to make it 6-4 and you sensed that. Their (Navy’s) shoulders dropped a bit. I said to my guys, ‘Hey, let’s take advantage of that.’ We got two more, and being poised and patient on offense really paid off."
Navy drew to within 8-6 on goals from Zack Schroeder and Connors, but Thul added to his freshman scoring record with his 38th goal, a wicked top-shelf shot from 12 yards out. Army’s Sean O’Sullivan scored less than a minute later for a 10-6 lead with 8:12 left in regulation.
Navy managed goals from Evan Sullivan and Moran with less than three minutes remaining, but Army won its 11th faceoff, Palesky made a stop on Brian Striffler with 42 seconds left and Boltus added a kill shot with 11 seconds left.
“We put ourselves in too far a hole to come back late again," Warner said.
The Patriot League tourney title was the first for Army in an event that began in 2004 – the Black Knights earned an NCAA automatic qualifier as regular season champ in 2003.
It was also the first time Army has ever beaten Navy twice in one season in a series dating back to 1924 – Navy had won five earlier playoff meetings, including the Patriot tourney finals in 2005 and 2006.
“It’s cool,’’ Army co-captain Alex Gephart said. “There are no words adequately describe it.’’
“It’s not the way I wanted to go out," said Navy senior defender Gordon Lawson.
2010 Patriot League All-Tournament Team
Jeremy Boltus, Army
Bill Henderson, Army
Tom Palesky, Army
Tyler Seymour, Army
Jake Clarke, Bucknell
Alex Lyons, Bucknell
Vinny DePasquale, Lafayette
Matt Mersky, Lafayette
Brian Stiffler, Navy
Andy Warner, Navy
Logan West, Navy
2010 Patriot League Tournament MVP
Tom Palesky, Army
2010 Patriot League Tournament
Semifinals, April 30
No. 1 Army 9, No. 4 Bucknell 7
No. 2 Navy 11, No. 3 Lafayette 9
Championship, May 1
No. 1 Army 11, No. 2 Navy 8
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