College Sports

Leelee Denton, Emma Richardell lead Navy women’s lacrosse to 13-12 upset of No. 20 Jacksonville

If Navy women’s lacrosse winds up needing an at-large berth to get into the NCAA Tournament, Thursday afternoon’s gutsy win will loom large.

The Midshipmen dug deep to knock off a ranked opponent for the second time this season. Junior attacker Leelee Denton scored a career-high six goals and sophomore goalkeeper Emma Richardell recorded a career-high 11 saves as Navy edged No. 20 Jacksonville, 13-12.


Freshman sensation Ava Yovino dished off six assists for Navy (6-2), which is likely to move into the national rankings next week provided it takes care of business against Bucknell in Saturday’s Patriot League opener.


“We’re going to savor this victory then get on the road tomorrow and be ready to play Bucknell on Saturday,” Navy coach Cindy Timchal said.

An announced crowd of 1,312 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium saw an entertaining back-and-forth battle that featured seven ties and five lead changes. Denton scored what proved to be the game-winner with 7:33 to go, cutting into open space on the crease and taking a great inside feed from Yovino to score from point-blank range.

Sarah Elms scored off an assist from Lauren Ellis to get Jacksonville within one with 6:16 to go, but Richardell made two huge saves to preserve the lead. The Dolphins had a chance to tie the contest after regaining possession in the final minute, but Yovino forced a turnover with 15 seconds left and the Mids salted away the remaining clock.

Navy’s Ava Yovino works her way inside in the first quarter of Thursday's game against Jacksonville.

“Navy women’s lacrosse came out here today knowing we had a lot on the line. Jacksonville is a ranked team and really took us the distance,” Timchal said. “I’m just so proud of the team to pull together, make plays and defensively come up with some big stops.”

Navy was without its top draw specialist, freshman Maura Murphy, who sustained an injury in practice this week. The Mids struggled in that department during the first half with the Dolphins capturing 14 of 20 draws.

Everyone on the draw circle pitched in as Navy improved in the second half, winning six of nine. The Midshipmen also overcame 16 turnovers and getting beaten 20-13 on the ground balls.

“We were very resilient today. It wasn’t always pretty and sometimes we had some uncharacteristic turnovers. In the end, we believed and found a way to come out on top,” Timchal said.

Elms scored three goals and dished off an assist to lead Jacksonville, which controlled possession and outshot Navy, 30-20. The graduate student out of Severna Park High is one of six Anne Arundel County residents on the Dolphins’ roster.


Lauren Craft also scored three goals as the Dolphins had a four-game winning streak snapped.

Sophomore midfielder Emily Messinese totaled two goals and an assist, while senior captain Charlotte Ryan also scored two goals for Navy. Maggie DeFabio and junior attacker Lindsay Beardmore both contributed a goal and an assist.

Jacksonville raced out to a 3-0 lead. Yovino had a goal and assist as Navy rallied to tie the score midway through the first quarter and there was never more than a two-goal differential the rest of the way.

Navy’s Leelee Denton attacks the goal and scores in the first quarter of Thursday's game against Jacksonville.

Denton scored a spectacular goal to start the second half, catching the ball amidst multiple defenders then turning away and flipping a backhanded shot past the netminder. That goal gave Navy its first lead of the game at 6-5.

“This is a signature game for Leelee and something we’re going to build on,” Timchal said. “We played against a zone the entire game and she was operating in traffic. Not only was she able to get open, but she also was able to make the catch and finish the shot.”

Denton positioned herself inside the heart of the Jacksonville defense and repeatedly handled tough interior passes while absorbing checks. “Ava and Maggie are two freshmen who are amazing feeders. Honestly, they pass the ball straight to my stick,” she said.


Richardell stepped up big in the second half, stopping eight of the 11 shots the Dolphins put on goal. She made several difficult saves of free position shots.

“Emma is an amazing young woman who studies the game very seriously. She takes a lot of reps [in practice] and learns the type of shots she’s going to face,” Timchal said. “We’re just so happy for Emma to be getting into a groove and she’s playing some great lacrosse.”

Richardell credited the aggressive play in front of the cage as the Mids stopped giving up shots from close range and forced the Dolphins to settle for lower percentage opportunities.

“Honestly, in the second half my defense played really well and gave me good shots that I could see,” she said.

It was yet another productive game for Yovino, who leads Division I with 54 points and 35 assists. The Florida native has been the consummate playmaker with her precision-like passing.

“Ava is just so selfless. She cares about her teammates and wants to set them up,” Timchal said. “At the end of the day, she’s a very fierce competitor that wants the ball when it matters the most.”


Playing tough, nonconference competition and coming away victorious is always meaningful to the NCAA Tournament selection committee. Ninth-ranked Loyola-Maryland is the overwhelming favorite to three-peat as Patriot League champs. If that happens, Navy’s wins over ranked foes Richmond and Jacksonville could be crucial to at-large consideration.

“I just think it’s so great to be able to play these highly ranked teams. It’s an opportunity to test ourselves against the best and really prepares us for games against [Patriot League] teams like Army and Loyola,” Denton said.

Timchal added: “We feel really good that we could be in contention for an at-large bid.”

Navy 13, Jacksonville 12

Jacksonville (4-4) 5-4-2-1=12

Navy (6-2) 5-4-2-2=13


GOALS: J — Elms 3, Craft 3, Samuels 2, Hobson 2, Brock, Gentile. N — Denton 6, Messinese 2, Ryan 2, Yovino, DeFabio, Beardmore. ASSISTS: J — Ellis 2, Elms, Orefice, Samuels. N — Yovino 6, Beardmore, DeFabio, Messinese. SHOTS: J – 30. N – 20. SAVES: J – Tysdal 0. Pagano 3. N — Richardell 11. DRAWS: J — 17. N — 12. GROUND BALLS: J — 20. N — 13.