The Air Force Academy lacrosse team is making two trips East this season to get the experience of better competition as it tries to upgrade its program.
It was clear here yesterday as Navy walloped Air Force, 19-3, in the opener for both teams that the Falcons are going to have to log a lot of air miles before they're ready for the country's best teams. Navy generally is one of those.
Three Navy players had three goals apiece to share scoring honors -- Jamie Slough, Matt Long and Andrew Ross.
It took coach Bryan Matthews' Midshipmen 4:37 to score the game's first goal. It came unassisted on a shot by sophomore Matt Foxman, from Silver Spring.
Three minutes later, Ross, a plebe from North County High, made it 2-0 when he dodged to get in close to the cage, then switched to his left hand and fired one past goalie Tom Gillen for the first of his scores.
It was evident late in the first period that Air Force didn't have much offense when it went scoreless during a three-minute, non-releasable extra-man situation on an illegal stick penalty against Navy's Charles Bertrand. Air Force got off only one good shot.
Navy went ahead 6-0 in the second period before Air Force could get its first goal. That came 5:21 into the second quarter, when senior Mike Murphy scored unassisted on an extra-man play.
By halftime Navy's lead was 11-2, and the Mids had taken 34 shots on goal to eight by Air Force.
At the end of three periods, Navy held a 17-3 lead, and Matthews had begun substituting liberally.
In the final seconds, Navy's substitutes had the ball and were firing away, hoping to hit 20.
"I was pleased with our team in spurts," said Matthews, in his 12th year at Navy. "Air Force played hard and forced us to stay in there, but we have a lot of improving to do.
"I'd like to see us play better together and get more assisted goals. Our new goalie [Garrett Luebker] didn't have a lot of tough shots taken at him, but he did well and made good outlet passes."
Air Force coach Capt. Tom Duggan, who is a graduate of that academy, was not disheartened by the one-sidedness of the score.
"We came ready to play," Duggan said, "but we broke down in our fundamentals. There were some things we wanted to do and couldn't because Navy is a good team and wouldn't let us do them."
Air Force will play at Rutgers tomorrow. Navy plays host to Washington College on Wednesday and Virginia on Saturday.
Navy 4 7 6 2 -- 19
Air Force 0 2 1 0 -- 3