Not that any event in the Army-Navy rivalry needs added importance, but last night's lacrosse game had it anyway.

Both unranked, the teams came into the game knowing the winner likely would be invited to the NCAA tournament, while the loser would stay home.

Army it is. The Cadets defeated the Mids, 14-12, before 6,299 at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium, the largest crowd in Navy's lacrosse history, to keep alive their hopes for a tournament bid.

Army (8-4) has two games remaining, Tuesday against Lafayette and next Saturday against Rutgers. Navy's season is over.

"Army-Navy stands by itself," said Navy coach Richie Meade, whose Mids finished 6-6. "It doesn't matter who ranks where. The whole season always rides on it. This time the tournament was like an added part of it.

"It's frustrating, ending it this way. The program has made a lot of progress. The loss to Towson State killed us. If not for that, I think we'd have come into this game in a different frame of mind."

The Mids won their first four games, all by one goal, but came into this one having dropped three straight, to Maryland, Towson State and Johns Hopkins. Army had won two straight and was coming off an upset of Hofstra.

In Meade's extensive Army-Navy experience -- he spent five years as a Mids assistant and four on the Cadets' staff before arriving at Navy as head coach in 1995 -- it has been futile to try to predict a winner.

In 1991 and '92, he recalled, Army upset Navy. The Cadets entered the Navy game undefeated in 1993 -- and lost. "Last season Army beat us at West Point and that catapulted them into the playoffs," Meade said.

Last night's victory probably did the same thing for Army again.

Led by Chad Hadlock, Army took command in the third period with seven goals in the first eight minutes for a 10-6 advantage.

Hadlock, a junior attackman, had four third-quarter goals and finished with six, tying his career high in a loss to Hobart. Michael Newton led Navy with four.

Ross Yastrzemsky (Liberty), Army's leading scorer this season, scored the game's first goal and the Cadets built a 3-0 first-quarter lead.

Navy tightened, outshot Army in the second quarter 20-0, and managed a 3-3 halftime tie. But the Mids consistently shot high, enabling Army goalie Lou Kousouris (Gilman) to stop or deflect the ball.

Pub Date: 4/26/97

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