This was a game of two teams searching for an identity. The Naval Academy may have found itself. UMBC is still searching.
Navy's attack, led by Matt Long's five goals, almost scored at will as the Mids held off stubborn UMBC for a 16-13 lacrosse
victory yesterday at Navy's Turf Field before 1,177.
It was the season opener for both teams, but one that had midseason intensity and several gallant comebacks by an inexperienced UMBC squad that has 17 underclassmen.
"Overall, I'm pretty pleased," said Navy first-year coach Richie Meade. "Every time they took a run at us, we responded. That showed a lot of character. We learned a little about ourselves today. The lacrosse part of this game will come later, but we showed poise today."
Not just poise, but a potent attack. Besides Long, senior attackman Charles Bertrand had three goals, and fellow attackman and classmate Rob Bailey had two. Navy midfielders Rich Costello and Andy Ross each had two.
But this day belonged to Long, a senior from Davidsonville. He scored almost every way possible, at times running through and around several defenders.
Long started Navy's scoring run in the second period that led to a 9-4 lead with 8:39 left in the first half, and he gave Navy a 10-9 lead with 9:33 left in the third quarter. His last goal of the afternoon came with 2:06 left in the third when he buzzed a long shot by goalie Chris Brown, who never even moved as the ball went into the goal.
"We had scouted them and realized that they had a lot of freshmen," said Long. "We felt we could run through their checks because we all have been starters for four years. Once we scored on them early, we knew they couldn't stop us.
"We have a new coach and some young players on our team, but I think we're going to be pretty tough this year. We'll gain confidence as the season goes on. Today I never thought we lost control of the game. I never thought we were going to lose."
UMBC made the Mids uncomfortable several times, but its inexperience showed. The Retrievers tried to force the ball on offense early, going away from coach Don Zimmerman's game plan of trying to hold the ball.
They scored once on 10 extra-man situations, and their lack of depth at midfield was exposed during Navy's scoring run in the second quarter. But UMBC made Navy pay by scoring off ground balls.
"I thought we played hard. That's what we want to do," said Zimmerman, in his second year. "We were down five goals and fought back. That was a good sign. But we can't be content with playing hard.
"It's still a loss, and that's unacceptable. Only losers accept losses. As for the extra-man offense, that's my fault because we didn't spend enough time with it and we're not comfortable with it yet. But we will get better."
Navy took a 4-3 lead after the first period and was all over UMBC early in the second. Long scored from long range in the first minute of the period, and Bailey scored off a rebound nearly 30 seconds later for a 6-3 Navy lead.
Long fed Costello for an extra-man goal with 12:26 left in the half, and Long and Bertrand scored during an 18-second stretch to put Navy ahead 9-4 with 8:39 left.
But junior midfielders Joe Wojciechowski, Chris Lloyd and sophomore Greg Sabo scored in the remaining time to cut Navy's lead to 9-7 at the end of the half.
Navy regained a three-goal lead at the end of the third period oLong's goal, but UMBC pulled within two goals three times, the last at 15-13 on a goal from midfielder Brian Belford with 2:09 left in the game.
But Bertrand scored on a shot that went between the legs of Brown with 1:26 left to put the game away.
UMBC ..3 ..4 ..3 ..3 ..-- ..13
Navy ..4 ..5 ..4 ..3 ..-- ..16