Navy 11, Pennsylvania 5
Navy senior attackman Joe Bossi has been overlooked since before his college career began. So he knew just what to do when the Pennsylvania defensemen paid little attention to him during a crucial point in their NCAA tournament first-round game yesterday in Annapolis.
Bossi scored three goals over 2 minutes 19 seconds in the third quarter to key an 11-5 victory before 2,845 at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium. It was the first victory for Navy in the NCAA tournament since a win over Penn in 1989.
The second-seeded Midshipmen (13-2) advanced to play No. 7 Cornell (9-5) in a quarterfinal on Sunday in Ithaca, N.Y. The Big Red advanced with an 11-5 victory Saturday over Hobart.
Navy advanced largely because of Bossi. Penn closed to 4-2 following a goal by senior Will Phillips (Annapolis) with 13:53 left in the third quarter.
Bossi then scored three straight goals, the last of which gave the Midshipmen a 7-2 lead with 3:41 left in the third. Penn (7-7) did not get within three goals the rest of the game. Bossi finished with a game-high four goals and has 40 this year, the first Navy player to have that many in 15 years.
Bossi took advantage of the attention Penn was paying to other players, including sophomore Ian Dingman (two goals, two assists).
"I saw an opening," Bossi said. "They were trying to switch, and I made a cut, and it was open twice."
Being overlooked is nothing new for Bossi. He was not even considered the best recruit from his high school to enter Navy in the fall of 2000. That distinction went to his teammate at Skaneateles (N.Y.) High, Dave Pittard, who started on attack as a freshman and sophomore before transferring to Cornell.
Pittard is a senior attackman there this year.
"He's always been overlooked," Navy Coach Richie Meade said of Bossi, who spent two years as a reserve. "But if you could write a script on how you want the last year to be for your seniors, this would be it."
The Quakers entered with a strong defense but only two players who had scored more than 11 goals. So it may not have been a surprise that Navy scored the only goal of the first quarter. It was the eighth time in the tournament's 34-year history that teams had combined for one goal in the opening quarter.
Navy scored three straight goals in the second quarter and did not lose the lead despite making 19 turnovers in the game.
Navy's attack was limited to one point in its last game, a 9-8 victory over Hobart on May 2. Yesterday, the unit had seven goals and four assists.
Sophomore P.J. Gilbert led Penn with two goals.
"I think their numbers wore us down," Penn Coach Brian Voelker said. "They use nine midfielders, we use six. They use eight or nine defensemen, we use four."
Things will get harder for Navy next weekend, though Meade said he did not care his team was playing the lower seed on its home field.
"You can't choose your battles," he said. "That's where the fight is. So that is where we are going to go.''