Navy falls to Army, 11-8, in Patriot League men's lacrosse championship

By Christian Swezey
Monday, May 3, 2010; D05

WEST POINT, N.Y. -- As its alma mater played following the Navy men's lacrosse team's 11-8 loss to Army in the Patriot League championship game Sunday at Michie Stadium, the "Beat Army!" phrase that punctuates the anthem was barely audible from the players and fans.

That's because, for the second time this year, the Midshipmen had failed to do it. The first loss came in the regular season amid controversy over a disallowed Navy goal that would have tied the game with 37 seconds to play.

The loss on Sunday was far less controversial and far more costly: It ended the season and school-record string of six consecutive NCAA tournament berths for Navy (7-8).

"Army played consistently well throughout the entire game," Navy Coach Richie Meade said. "This game was decided by mistakes, and Army made fewer than we did."

The Midshipmen closed to 8-6 following a goal on a one-handed shot by senior Brendan Connors with 12 minutes 56 seconds to play. The Midshipmen won the ensuing faceoff and sophomore Ryan O'Leary took a tired-looking 15-yard shot that was saved by junior goalie Tom Palesky with 11:55 left.

It was Navy's last shot for 9:25. By the time it took another shot -- an attempt from Connors that went high -- Army had a 10-6 lead and 2:30 was left to play. In the drought, Army freshman Garrett Thul and sophomore Sean O'Sullivan each scored and sophomore Derek Sipperly won both faceoffs after the goals.

Navy closed to 10-8 following a goal by senior Patrick Moran with 1:51 left but did not get closer.

Palesky was named the tournament MVP. He finished with 12 saves on Sunday as Army (10-5) is headed to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2005.

"This is my first championship ever in my life," Palesky said. "I don't even know how to react. A bunch of the guys on our team won championships [in high school], and they were keeping me relaxed."

The result also marked a couple of firsts for Navy: its first loss in the Patriot League championship game -- it entered 5-0 -- and the first time it lost to its longtime rival twice in the same season.

Connors and Moran each finished with two goals and junior Andy Warner added a goal for Navy.

"It's hard to get a rhythm going when you're fighting from behind," Warner said. "It throws you out of sync."

Navy had lamented that its 7-6 loss to Army on April 17 was determined in part by a disallowed goal by sophomore Nikk Davis that would have tied the game. The selector of referees for the NCAA tournament later said the goal should have counted.

On Sunday in steamy West Point, there was no controversy. Instead, there was Navy finishing with a school record for losses. Five of those losses came by one or two goals.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company