Dixon, Towson rise to Navy challenge, 14-7


In a game between two teams with faint hope for a berth in the NCAA tournament, Towson State and Navy were dead even until Dudley Dixon played his best lacrosse of the season.

Dixon, a sophomore from Severn School, was the Tigers' Male Rookie of the Year for all sports in 1994, when he was second on the team in points with 33 goals and 14 assists.

He expected more of the same this season, which began with Towson State ranked No. 6. The injury-riddled Tigers struggled early, however, and so did Dixon. He was benched, then moved to the midfield as the attack foundered, but last night Navy found that Dixon and the Tigers still have a lot of bite.

Dixon had two of his three goals and both of his assists in the second half, when Towson State scored nine of the first 10 goals and routed 13th-ranked Navy, 14-7, before 1,750 at Minnegan Stadium.

"I've had a rough year," said Dixon, who lost his starting job after a 15-10 loss to Penn State. "I expected so much coming into this season, but I wasn't mentally prepared. I was moved to midfield. I last played there in the eighth grade. I talked to my brother about it and he told me I just had to be confident."

Dixon's brother, Lindsay, underwent a similar change five years ago and became one of the best middies in the game, but Dudley wanted no part of the experiment.

Dixon was on attack last night, but even after he gave the Tigers a 6-5 lead 4:25 into the second half, he returned briefly to the sidelines. He asked assistant coach Jeff Clarke to put him back in the game. His solo effort that beat two Navy defenders made it 8-5, and his passing set up three of the Tigers' next four goals.

"That's what you've got to hear," Towson State coach Carl Runk said of Dixon's plea to return. "He was due for a big game. He had been playing a low-percentage game, shooting when he shouldn't. When he plays well, the rest of the kids play well."

With Towson State (4-4) rolling up a 50-29 advantage in ground balls, junior goalie Brian Whalen making 11 saves and Matt Clune, a freshman from St. Mary's, getting a game-high four goals, the Tigers enjoyed their best effort of the season.

Towson State is ranked No. 19, but it will jump several spots this week. The Tigers probably need to upset Johns Hopkins on April 29 to make the tournament for the fifth time in seven seasons.

Navy (5-5), which was losing for the second time in four days, plays at Hopkins next Saturday. Only once in the last nine seasons -- in 1990 -- did both Navy and Towson State fail to make the NCAA tournament.

In each of the last two seasons, Navy had beaten Towson State on last-minute goals by Charles Bertrand, but the Tigers drained the suspense from this one as they ran away and hid from a 5-5 halftime tie.

From Navy coach Richie Meade's viewpoint, the Dixon goal that made it 8-5 was the killer.

"I thought we were in the game until eight minutes were left in the third quarter," Meade said. "Then they got the three-goal lead, and we had to extend and chase. That was difficult against a team with their athletic ability."

Clune had three of his four goals in the fourth quarter, when the Tigers scored the first five goals to go ahead 14-6.

Bertrand and Matt Long had two goals apiece for Navy, which got 13 saves from goalie Tim Fox.

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