This was the reason Bruce Nechanicky endured two knee surgeries and countless hours of rehabilitation.
The senior attackman scored Navy's last two goals to help lift No. 10 Navy to an 8-6 victory over No. 15 Ohio State before an announced 2,554 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis yesterday.
The Midshipmen, who also received two goals and an assist from Tim Paul, two goals from Brendan Connors, and a goal and three assists from Andy Warner, improved to 2-0 and earned a win that could help them to their sixth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance.
Some of that credit will go to Nechanicky, who is tied with attackmen Paul and Connors for the team lead in goals. Two years ago, Nechanicky was touted as a promising player before tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
After seven months of rehab, Nechanicky participated in an intrasquad scrimmage in the fall and tore the ligament again.
"The first time I tore it and went through surgery, I said, 'If I ever tear it again, I would just leave [lacrosse],' " he said. "But then the minute I did it, I knew I had to get back."
After Paul scored his second goal of the game to give Navy a 6-4 lead 71 seconds into the third quarter, Nechanicky padded the advantage with a shot that trickled off goalie Brandon Freeman and across the goal line with 11:26 left in the period.
But Ohio State narrowed the gap to one with two goals in the final 1:36 of the quarter, including one from Mario Ventiquattro with one second left.
But Navy's Frankie Coppola won the fourth-quarter opening faceoff, and the score remained unchanged until Nechanicky took a feed from Warner and whipped a shot behind his back past Freeman with 2:34 left.
Nechanicky's ability to finish could pay off for an offense that graduated standout Nick Mirabito, who paced Navy with 23 goals and 23 assists last season.
"[Nechanicky's return] gives you something at attack that we haven't had," coach Richie Meade said. "Timmy's a great ballhandler, but Bruce is a guy that can accelerate in space and create some problems."
Joel Dalgarno led Ohio State (1-1) with three goals and an assist, and Ventiquattro scored twice, but coach Nick Myers noted that his team committed 24 turnovers compared with 15 for the Midshipmen.
"We've got to get better and tighten up in a lot of areas," the first-year head coach said.
Notes: : A goal by Buckeyes senior attackman Jeff Ryan with 9:01 left in the first quarter was disallowed after officials ruled that his stick was illegal. With Ryan serving a three-minute penalty, Navy's Patrick Moran scored with two seconds left on the penalty. The Midshipmen went 1-for-3 on extra-man opportunities and are 5-for-7 this season. ... Ryan's goal with 12:29 left in the second quarter was the first Navy had surrendered in 48:10, dating to the 39-second mark of the second quarter of its 13-5 win over VMI on Feb. 7.