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Turnovers stump Navy lacrosse in loss

So much for seizing the momentum.

Not only did the Navy men's lacrosse team squander a three-goal rally to open the third quarter that trimmed an 8-4 deficit, but the Midshipmen's eventual 14-9 loss to visiting Bucknell on Saturday made their near-upset of No. 4 North Carolina last week a distant memory.

Navy (1-3) has now lost three straight after defeating VMI on Feb. 11 and has dropped its third Patriot League opener in the last four years.

"Certainly for us, it was a game of mistakes. We just made too many mistakes," coach Rick Sowell said. "At halftime, we had made 11 turnovers, and I thought that was just way too many. Good team, decent teams even, turn the ball over maybe 12, 13 times a game, and we had 11 at half. So you're just not going to win too many games when you turn the ball over 25 times. Why we did it, I just have no idea. No idea."

An announced crowd of 1,381 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis watched the Midshipmen overcome a four-goal deficit at halftime by scoring three times in a span of 45 seconds. Sophomore attackman Tucker Hull (a team-high five points on three goals and two assists) followed a goal with 1:13 into the third with another 10 seconds later. Thirty-five seconds later, senior attackman Taylor Reynolds (one goal and three assists) found senior midfielder Nikk Davis in the slot to make it an 8-7 score.

But on the Bison's ensuing possession, Navy junior short-stick defensive midfielder Jay Mann unnecessarily connected with senior attackman Billy Eisenreich in the helmet after a shot with 12:00 left in the period.

That earned Mann a 60-second penalty, and Bucknell (1-3) took advantage with Eisenreich finding sophomore midfielder Peter Burke (two goals and two assists) at the left wing with 11:10 left. That sparked three more Bison goals to give them a 12-7 lead that was too much to overcome.

Against the Tar Heels, the Midshipmen were suffocating on defense and opportunistic on offense. Those ingredients were absent against Bucknell, which consistently escaped slides by finding open teammates for goals. That execution prevented Navy from getting many opportunities of its own as the offense took just 11 shots in the first half en route to being outshot, 35-27, for the game.

Losing that momentum was not lost on senior defenseman Matt Vernam.

"That was one thing that we tried to focus on this week," he said. "Coach said we needed to come out and be a consistent team, and we weren't [Saturday] . The only thing we can do now is bounce back and come back on Monday hard because we've got another Patriot League game ahead of us. We need to learn from our mistakes, and we need to come back hard and get ready for Lafayette [Saturday]."

Eisenreich's two goals and five assists paced the Bison to their most lopsided victory over the Midshipmen in their 12-game series and may have breathed new life into a program that had opened the season with three consecutive losses.

"We felt like this was a must-win situation," coach Frank Fedorjaka said. "I set up the schedule to make it as hard as we can so that we were playing well by the time we got to this game. I don't think we're good enough to win a championship right now. Luckily, we don't have to play for one today. But I thought we made some really big strides, and it was a really big win for us because we did need to do that."

edward.lee@baltsun.com

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