ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The Navy men’s lacrosse team used a suffocating defense and a well-balanced offense to pitch an 11-3 victory over Lafayette Friday evening at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. The Mids improved to 3-2 overall and 2-1 in Patriot League action, while dealing Lafayette its fourth loss of the season (1-4) and second in conference play.
“This was a heck of a win tonight,” said third-year Navy head coach Rick Sowell. “We have a lot of respect for Lafayette and we knew it would be a tough game. They have a strong defense and they are very strong in goal, but we battled.”
The two teams traded goals in the opening period before the Mids took a 2-1 lead with just 3.2 seconds left in the first thanks to the spectacular play of senior long pole Ben Sampson (Doylestown, Pa.). Sampson forced a Lafayette turnover, grabbed the ground ball and took off looking for a transition goal. He found senior attackman Sam Jones (Annapolis, Md.) in mid-stride, as Jones punched in the goal and Sampson was credited with his first collegiate assist.
Lafayette, though, would convert on its fourth extra-man opportunity of the game when Navy goalkeeper John Connors (Bellmore, N.Y.) came out of the goal and went behind the cage. Lafayette junior attackman Sonny Round recognized Connors was out of position and wheeled his pass to senior middie John Floyd who knotted the game at 2-2 with 6:19 remaining in the half.
Navy senior Austin Heneveld (East Hampton, N.Y.) gave the Mids the lead for good when he took possession of the ball from behind the cage on a restart and quickly ran around the right side of the cage and tucked his shot in over the shoulder of Lafayette keeper Jake Hyatt with 2:23 to go in the second period.
The Mids added a goal onto the scoreboard after Lafayette way flagged for its first penalty of the game with 37 seconds remaining in the half. A perfectly executed play between attackmen Patrick Keena (Vienna, Va.) and Tucker Hull(Charlotte, N.C.) gave the Mids a 4-2 advantage at the break.
Navy pushed its lead to 7-2 with just under seven minutes to play in the third quarter and featured goals by Heneveld, Jones and junior midfielder Gabe Voumard (Cape May, N.J.), who blew past midfielder Matt Confort and waltzed his way in for a doorstop goal. Following a 20-minute scoring drought, Lafayette scored its third and final goal of the game on an unassisted marker by sophomore Robert Orazietti at the 1:19 mark.
Leading 7-3 to begin the final stanza, Navy got a huge spark from rookie faceoff specialist Brady Dove (Stevensville, Md.). The Mids opened the fourth quarter by scoring four goals in the first minute and 24 seconds thanks to consecutive wins by Dove at the faceoff “x.” Heneveld picked up the ground ball on the opening draw of the fourth quarter and fed Jones who was posted up low on the left wing. Jones sent his pass to co-captain Pat Kiernan (Ridgewood, N.J.) who was running up the middle and scored his first goal of the season at the 14:47 mark. Kiernan is now tied for sixth nationally among active defensive scorers with 13 points on 10 goals and three assists over his career.
Meanwhile just 16 seconds later (14:31), Jones again found a teammate, this time fellow attackman T.J. Hanzsche(Berwyn, Pa.), who extended his point and goal-scoring streak (11 straight games) with a high-powered shot from the right wing. Just eight seconds elapsed (14:23) when Dove won the faceoff and without hesitation flipped the ball to Voumard who fed Jones for his third goal of the game. Navy’s final goal in the run came at 13:36 when senior midfielder Pat Durkin (Germantown, Md.) punched in his lone goal of the game and gave the Mids an 11-3 lead.
“It all started with Brady” said Jones about Navy’s four-goal run to open the fourth quarter. “I have a lot of respect for him. He doesn’t play with a lot of emotion, he just goes out and does his job and gives the offense an opportunity to score.”
Dove, who came into the contest ranked 17th nationally in faceoff percentage (59.8), won 12 of the 17 draws he took against the Leopards and became Navy’s record holder for faceoff wins by a freshman. Winning 67 of the 109 draws (61.5) to date, he passed previous record holder Mike Haertel who held the record for nearly 20 years. Haertel won 64 of the 122 faceoffs he took as a rookie in 1997. Dove, meanwhile, also moved up to 16th on Navy’s career faceoff wins list, passing Tommy Wallin who amassed 64 wins from 2003-07.
“Brady has been unbelievable for us,” added Sowell. “He has great poise. He might be the most important player on our team right now.
“I’ve been saying it since day one that we need to find other ways to score other than set pieces and in the last two games I think we have done a nice job of that. Tonight Brady really did a good job of generating some offense for the team.”
Navy senior close defenseman Nik Mullen (Wading River, N.Y.) and Connors in goal orchestrated a defensive effort that was nearly flawless, as the Mids surrendered the fewest goals since their 8-2 win over sixth-ranked Johns Hopkins on April 21, 2012. It’s the fewest goals the Leopards have scored since dropping a 10-3 decision to Army on March 24, 2012.
Mullen held the Leopards’ leading scorer Brian Bock (7G, 2A) to just an assist in the contest while also chipping in a career-high three caused turnovers, while Connors turned away 13 shots on goal including six in the third quarter.
“Connors was unbelievable tonight,” said Mullen. “He was on fire. He really saw the ball well and made some great doorstop saves.”
“We were pretty good down there,” said Sowell regarding Navy’s defensive effort. “Coach Wellner has done a good job of coaching our defense and I thought we played a sound game. I didn’t like all of the penalties that we committed, but credit our man-down defense for hanging tough.”
Navy was flagged for an alarming eight penalties, including multiple times when the Mids were already down a man. Remarkably, Navy was able to squelch seven of the eight man-down situations. On the year, Navy’s opponents have scored five goals on 24 attempts (20.8).
Seven different players scored goals for the Mids, while 10 different players provided points. Jones paced the Mids in the scoring column with five points on three goals and two assists. With his fourth hat trick in five games this season, Jones slipped past Eddie McKinnon (1999-02) into 16th on Navy’s career scoring list with 137 points. Meanwhile, Voumard pitched in three points on two goals and an assists and Heneveld turned in his third two-goal performance of the season.
The Mids will have little time in relishing their victory as they will play their lone regular-season mid-week game of the year on Tuesday when they make the short bus ride to Johnny Unitas Stadium where they will face Towson. Game time is slated for 7:00 pm.