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Navy's Gill Brings Winning Personal Style vs. Hopkins

Saturday, April 23, 2005; Page D02

Maybe it's guts -- or maybe something else -- that Graham Gill displayed when, as an 8-year-old, he played a practical joke on the captain of the high school wrestling team.

When the captain went to pick up his prom date, who was Gill's neighbor, he and a friend climbed on the roof of the house with a large sign that read, "Chip and Katie are going to the prom!"

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"All the neighbors were pointing and laughing, we had no idea what was going on," said Nancy Haley, Katie's mom. "My daughter was mortified."

Gill displays that same fearlessness as a starting midfielder for the fifth-ranked Navy lacrosse team. The Midshipmen (9-2) will need that attitude and more when they face No. 1 Johns Hopkins at 1 today at Homewood Field in Baltimore.

The Blue Jays (9-0) have won 30 in a row against Navy dating from 1974. They also have won 32 in a row at home dating from 2001.

Gill, a senior, enters with 10 goals and 11 assists. It won't be a surprise if he adds to those totals today. He has 12 multiple-goal games in his career; 11 have come against teams ranked in the top 20 at the time.

That run includes three goals in a 9-8 win over then-No. 6 Maryland on April 8. The Midshipmen trailed 8-7 when Gill scored the tying goal with 2 minutes 2 seconds to play. He then beat a double-team to score the winning goal with 14 seconds left.

Navy Coach Richie Meade said he had considered calling a timeout in the final seconds until Gill got the ball.

"What we had tried to do had broken down, it was a little disorganized," Meade said. "Then Graham got the ball and we decided to let it go. . . . When I bring the guys into my office [in the fall], I tell them we expect them to do this or we think they can be this good. Graham is one of the guys I told, 'You have so much God-given ability that you get to decide how good you are going to be.' "

Gill's fearlessness isn't always positive. He tried to split a double-team in overtime against Bucknell on March 12 and wound up losing the ball and getting called for a penalty. Bucknell won on its next possession.

"I didn't think about that [the Bucknell game] at all against Maryland," Gill said. "I don't know why, but I didn't."

Others have an idea.

"When Graham was learning how to roller-blade, he would have some incredible wipeouts," Haley said. "You'd ask if he was okay and he'd say yes and off he'd go, with blood spilling down both legs. . . . He doesn't know when to quit."

Gill was introduced to the sport by his uncle, Virginia Coach Dom Starsia. But he attended Shawnee (N.J.) High, which did not field a team. He instead played for the Southern New Jersey lacrosse club.

Navy's coaches learned of Gill only after a phone call from Starsia. Otherwise, he was recruited only by Division III schools.

"We sent him to a year of prep school, and before he left I told him nothing would please me more than to have him line up against one of his uncle's highly recruited players and burn him," Meade said. "He smiled and said, 'Yeah, that wouldn't be bad.' "

-- Christian Swezey


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