For the first 30 minutes of yesterday's season opener, the shooters on the Navy men's lacrosse team peppered Saint Joseph's sophomore goalie Erik Hotaling, but he kept getting in the way. Once the No. 10 Midshipmen started to solve their nemesis, they cruised by their overmatched opponent.
Junior attackman Nick Mirabito scored a game-high three goals, all in the second half, and Navy's hustling defense allowed no goals after halftime, as the Mids rolled to a 10-3 rout at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
There was little doubt about Navy's supremacy over Saint Joseph's, which hopes to make a run at a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference title and was coming off a season-opening 23-6 loss to Delaware. But the Mids, despite dominating in faceoffs (winning 11 out of 15) and shots, could not break free early, and even trailed briefly.
After Navy freshman midfielder Basil Daratsos opened the game's scoring with an 8-yard runner from the right wing 70 seconds into the contest, the Mids either missed the cage or Hotaling denied them - for nearly 22 minutes. During that stretch, Saint Joseph's took a 2-1 lead on goals by senior attackman Mike O'Neill and sophomore attackman Alex Lopes, who made the go-ahead shot from point-blank range with 8:12 left in the half.
Navy finally started to finish after that. Senior attackman Ian Dingman (two goals) beat a defender one-on-one and made a 10-yard shot from the left side after circling the net with 7:07 left. That started a three-goal run over a span of 1:48 that gave the Mids a 4-2 lead. Despite Hotaling's 10 first-half saves, Navy took a 4-3 lead into the locker room.
"Coming into halftime, Coach was saying, 'Keep plugging away.' What we were running offensively was working. It's just that we weren't cashing in," Mirabito said. "The defense was doing their job. We just weren't finishing our shots. That's our fault."
The Mids, who took 47 shots and allowed only 18, rectified that problem quickly. Three minutes into the third quarter, Dingman, off an assist from sophomore midfielder Geoff Leone, scored to make it 5-3. Then, Mirabito scored inside after a feed by freshman midfielder Tim Paul (Loyola) to make it 6-3 with 10:29 to go. And with 4:03 left in the quarter, junior attackman Matt Guido (two goals) finished a fast break to put Saint Joseph's in a 7-3 hole.
Mirabito scored the next two goals early in the fourth quarter to turn the game into a rout.
"We're a better team than they are," Navy coach Richie Meade said. "When you play good defense, eventually you pull away. We're going to have to work through a lot of stuff early in the year."
Navy, the favorite to win its fourth straight Patriot League title, started life without three All-Americans who have graduated - attackman Jon Birsner, midfielder Steve Looney and goalie Matt Russell.
Senior goalie Colin Finnegan recovered from brief, early struggles to finish strong with nine saves. And the younger players made a mark. Paul finished with a goal and an assist. Daratsos scored on his first career shot. Freshman long-stick midfielder Jaren Woeppel started Guido's transition goal with a takeaway near midfield.
Saint Joseph's 1 2 0 0 - 3
Navy 1 3 3 3 - 10
Goals: SJ-Lopes, O'Neill, Slowik; N-Mirabito 3, Dingman 2, Guido 2, Daratsos, Higgins, Paul. Assists: SJ-O'Brien 2, McColough; N-Higgins, Leone, Looney, Paul, Wallace. Saves: SJ-Hotaling 12; N-Finnegan 9.