ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The Navy lacrosse team staged a strong second half effort on both ends of the field as the Mids earned a 13-7 victory over Holy Cross Saturday afternoon at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis. Navy outscored the Crusaders 5-1 in the second half, holding Holy Cross scoreless for the final 26 minutes of the contest, as the Mids to improve to 4-3 on the year, including a 2-1 mark in Patriot League action.
“That was one heck of a win for our program,” said first-year Navy head coach Rick Sowell. “We had a lot of different guys stepping up and making big plays at different times throughout the game. Erik Hoffstadt scored a huge goal for us on extra-man that gave us a little padding. Ben Sampson and Pat Kiernan provided offense as long poles. Evan McGoogan came in and was able to win some faceoffs. And our goalkeeper, RJ Wickham, who played an all-around solid game, stepped up and made some big saves in the second half when we needed them. It was just an all-around great team effort.”
The Mids built a 4-2 advantage over the Crusaders in the opening quarter, sparked by the play of sophomore long poles Pat Kiernan (Ridgewood, N.J.) and Ben Sampson (Doylestown, Pa.). Kiernan punched in a career-high tying two goals, while Sampson, in just his second-career appearance, scored his first-collegiate goal midway through the first quarter. Kiernan has now scored six goals this season, including five in the last three contests.
Navy pushed its lead to 7-2 early in the second quarter, as the Mids scored three goals in 1:23 seconds, including back-to-back strikes by senior co-captain Taylor Reynolds (Babylon, N.Y.).
Holy Cross, however, fought its way back into the game, scoring four of the final five goals of the first half to find itself down by just two, 8-6, at the half. The four goals were scored by four different players – Clay Haarmann, John Hannan, Myles Gilespite, Nick Rabiecki – and three of the four were unassisted.
The Crusaders trimmed Navy’s lead to one at 8-7 with just under 11 minutes to go in the third period on another unassisted goal by Gillespie. While Holy Cross looked to have all the momentum in its favor, an extra-man goal by sophomore midfielder Erik Hoffstadt (Dover, Del.) at 9:16 in the third period gave Navy just what it needed – breathing room.
The goal was the first of five straight by the Mids, as Navy’s defense solved Holy Cross’ offensive attack and did not give up a goal for the final 25:57.
“The six to eight minute period in which they made their run in the first half, well that happens in the game of lacrosse,” said senior goalkeeper RJ Wickham (Penn Yan, N.Y.). “I think we adjusted well in the second half and I would say it was really good defense holding them to one goal in the second half. The seniors, myself, Matt Vernam and Ian Crumley, we were trying to use our leadership on defense to buckle down and play the way we know how.”
“Credit Holy Cross for the grit and belief they played with,” added Sowell. “We knew we were in for a battle. We got off to a strong start, but they didn’t give in. They kept coming back at us.
“I think Erik’s (Hoffstadt) goal gave us an opportunity to catch out breath a little bit and regroup.”
Seven different player provided goals for the Mids, anchored by sophomore attackman Tucker Hull’s (Charlotte, N.C.) ninth-career hat trick and fifth of the year. Hull put together his third eight-point performance of the year with five assists to go along with his three goals. With 40 points on 20 goals and 20 assists, Hull has already scored more points than he did as a freshman (38).
“Honestly, the other players make me look good,” said Hull, who is the nation’s No. 2 scorer, averaging better than five points per game. “My teammates are working to get open all of the time and I just happen to be the one with the ball in my stick.”
Reynolds, Kiernan, Hoffstadt and senior midfielder Nikk Davis (Cockeysville, Md.) scored two goals apiece, while Sampson and sophomore attack Sam Jones (Annapolis, Md.) each got into the scoring column.
Wickham put together one of his strongest days in goal with a season-best 16-save performance, while giving up seven goals to the Crusaders. With the 16 saves, Wickham became just the eighth goalkeeper in the program’s 105-year history to reach the 400-save milestone. Ironically, he is the first Navy keeper since Mickey Jarboe, the Mids’ current goalkeeper coach, achieved the feat in 2000, stopping 701 shots over his four-year career.
Meanwhile, Navy continued to be riddled at the faceoff x, as senior Logan West (Berlin, Md.) managed just two wins in 11 attempts. Junior Evan McGoogan (Cranberry Township, Pa.), however, came on to find some success getting the ball to his wings, as he was credited with wins on eight of his 13 draws.
The Midshipmen will be back in action next Saturday when they make the trip North to Hamilton, N.Y. to battle 17th-ranked Colgate, who is off to a 7-1 start including a 1-0 mark in Patriot League play. Faceoff is slated for 2:00 pm at Andy Kerr Stadium.
“We are in the same situation we were in last year (a three-game winning streak going into the Colgate game),” added Hull. “It’s going to be tough moving forward with the schedule that we play, but we can’t have last year. We want to win.”