Entering the season, Navy coach Richie Meade never liked to talk about his young players at length. He'd rather shift the focus to his veteran players, whom he considers the leaders of the Midshipmen.
And his feelings were reinforced yesterday. The plebes and sophomores staked Navy to a big lead, and the seniors saved the game.
Receiving timely goals by seniors Andy Ross and Brian Hay, Navy escaped with a 14-13 victory over visiting UMBC after failing to maintain leads of six and five goals at Rip Miller Field.
"It's like you got Joe Montana at quarterback, and you tell the others to go out and just not lose the game," Meade said. "And that's what our young guys did. They held their own. But it was our seniors that won the game."
Navy (1-0) put together a 4-0 run early in the second half, which was capped by a diving score off a rebound by plebe James O'Leary to put the Midshipmen ahead 12-7 with 6:45 left in the third quarter.
But UMBC (0-1) regrouped for its second comeback of the game. In a span of 1:20, the Retrievers closed to within 12-10 on a goal by Chad Henry. Ross countered 14 seconds later to give the Midshipmen a 13-10 cushion with 1:07 remaining in the third.
The Retrievers answered again on goals by Chris Turner and Matt Shearer with 8:17 remaining to cut the margin to 13-12. On the ensuing faceoff, senior defenseman Brian Hay picked up the loose ball, ran down field and scored to put Navy up 14-12.
Ryan Cherry scored the last of five UMBC extra-man goals with 1:46 left to get the deficit to 14-13, but the Retrievers managed two makeshift shots for the remainder of the game.
"There are a lot of things that I'm happy about, especially that every time they came at us, we responded," Meade said. "We could have easily lost this game."
At the start of the game, it appeared Navy was going to turn the game into a rout. The Midshipmen scored on four of their first five shots, forcing UMBC goalkeeper Steve Gorski out of the game at 7:13 of the first quarter.
The Retrievers inserted freshman R. J. Degenfelder, who made some solid saves but couldn't stop Navy from running out to a 7-1 advantage midway through the second quarter.
UMBC, which had held possession for most of the first half and outshot Navy 48-35 for the game, finally started hitting the net to mount its first surge. Shearer notched two goals as the Retrievers scored five unanswered to pull within 7-6 two minutes before halftime.
"We started off terribly and put ourselves in a deep hole," UMBC coach Don Zimmerman said. "We climbed our way back, but didn't get it done. It takes a lot of energy and emotion to come back from 7-1."