Global warming may or may not exist, but I am sure of one thing – whatever the hell is going on right now is making some awesome early-March weather happen in Annapolis. I went to Navy Marine Corps Memorial Stadium today to watch the Mids take on the Crusaders of Holy Cross on the latest upper-60’s, sunny, and breezy day. Despite Spring Break flinging the Brigade to the far corners of wherever the drinking age is under 21, there were still what looked to be a couple thousand fans filling the west stands to see the Midshipmen win 13-7.
Before we talk about the game, I’d like to give a shout-out to the Women’s Basketball team one more time. I caught the first half of their game against Maryland before heading into town to meet my parents, and they gave Maryland everything they could muster. The team ended up losing by 15 on UMD’s home court, but held the Terps under 60 points while playing great defense. As I later read in a Scott Strasemeier tweet, it was the closest margin for a Patriot League team in the NCAA tourney in the last 20 years. From never having gone to the tourney to back-to-back PL titles and a great showing against the #5 team in the country, this team deserves your recognition.
Back to the sticks…
Navy started the game off right, picking up a goal from Long Stick Middie Pat Kiernan just 8 seconds into the action. Holy Cross answered a few minutes later with a goal of their own to tie it at 1-1 with just over 10 mins to go in the first quarter. Unfortunately for Holy Cross, that was as close to the lead as they’d get for the remainder of the game. That’s not to say Holy Cross didn’t make it a game. Navy managed to build leads of 4-1 and 7-2, but the Crusaders fought back with 4 goals in the final 9 minutes to make it a 2 goal game, 8-6 Navy, at the half.
I jotted down some notes on my Android at the half to remind myself what to write about tonight. One, it seemed like Navy was slow to the slide in the first half. A number Holy Cross’ of goals seemed to come from guys who got a step on their defender – a feeling perhaps backed up by the fact that Holy Cross only had 2 assists on their 7 goals. Two, Navy executed extremely well in unsettled scenarios. I’d have to get the official stats, but by my count we had 3 of our first 4 goals scored by long stick middies – all within 20 seconds of a faceoff. Three, it’s so much fun sitting around player parents. We were seated behind the extended family (as we later learned – parents, grandparents, aunt/uncle) of Tucker Hull. His mom constantly cheered on the offense and defense and proudly wore a #39 Navy jersey. And, unlike me, she kept her cool while Holy Cross rallied. Props to Mrs. Hull for being a great player parent today!
As an aside, I picked up tickets to the Hopkins game in April at the half when the announcer told those in attendance of a $3-a-ticket pre-sale (70% off for the uninitiated). I picked up 6 tickets so the whole family can go – and I can subject you to another write-up for the blog. I’m not sure if Navy’s making a push to try and set a record for the game or not, but making it that good of a deal can’t hurt. I do know this – Navy has been great about leveraging social media – particularly Facebook and Twitter – to not only push updates and articles, but also offer up great deals (such as Football Ticket Fridays where you could buy deeply discounted tickets for home games). If you’re not already following Navy Athletics, do so on Facebook and Twitter.
Holy Cross opened the 2nd half scoring with a goal just over 3 mins into action to close it to 8-7 Navy. You could feel the crowd puckering up as the small contingent of purple clad parents and fans supporting the Crusaders got louder. But that goal turned out to be their last hurrah. Navy scored the final 5 goals of the game, the last coming with 11 mins left in the 4th quarter. A combination of tenacious defense, great saves, and an excellent job of taking the air out of the ball on offense (much to the chagrin of anyone who views a stall warning as an unspeakable sin) allowed the team to cruise to victory and get above .500 for the first time since the season opening win over VMI.
The player of the game was aforementioned Sophomore Attackman Tucker Hull (of Providence in Charlotte, NC – big ups to a fellow North Carolina boy getting it done) who netted 8 points on a hat trick and 5 assists.
RJ Wickham finished with 16 saves, 7 different Mids scored, Navy had 10 assists on 13 goals, and the defense held Holy Cross scoreless for the final 25 minutes. Navy had some EMO difficulties, including a turnover or two. But the two scores they had (on 5 opportunities) were deftly executed. Holy Cross had just one EMO chance and was denied a goal by the Mids. Aside from the 2nd quarter offensive outburst from HC, it was an all around great win for the team.
There were a few other notes I made throughout the game about the game and atmosphere.
One thing I noticed in watching and checking out the photos I was taking is how small both goalies played. I like to turn my high school-trained eye on the goalies and see what I can pick up from them. When I say they played small, I mean both in stature and in relation to the plane of the goal. Take the Holy Cross goalie for example:
That’s a lot of open net around him. What doesn’t come out so well in the photo is how flat goalies play at times. I came up as a 6’1”, 220 lb goalie, meaning I took up a lot of net. I took up even more by moving on a wide arc from the goal line. It’s just the way I was coached , and is one thing I tend to nitpick in every game I watch. There seemed to be goals by both teams that took advantage of angles that could have been cut down by more aggressive stances by the goalies.
If you think the lack of TV timeouts would leave Navy fans wanting for something to complain about, don’t worry. Some of the groans I heard included a claim that, of our first 9 goals, 6 were unsettled. I suppose that means we have a horrible set offense? I dunno. But I just thought that it was a special enough sentiment to share.
Finally, it just wouldn’t be a Navy sporting event if you didn’t see someone doing something funny in the stands. Today that nod goes to the lady in the row in front of me crocheting.
I have a lot more photos that I’ll share in a later post. Stay tuned! Here’s just a few to tide you over