Kern, Carter lead Navy past UMBC, 7-5, in defensive struggle

Bill Wagner
Contact Reporterbwagner@capgaznews.com

Going into this season it appeared a potent, veteran offense might have to carry a young, inexperienced defense for the Navy lacrosse team.

Three games in, it looks like the Midshipmen may rely on the stingy defense that has been a long-standing tradition of the program.

Goalkeeper Ryan Kern made 10 saves to anchor a strong defensive effort as Navy shut down UMBC, 7-5, in a steady snowstorm at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Close defenseman Hiram Carter had two caused turnovers and four ground balls for the Midshipmen, who held the Retrievers scoreless for a stretch of almost 16 minutes spanning the third and fourth quarters.

Junior midfielder Greyson Torain totaled two goals and an assist to lead the Navy offense, which struggled to put the ball in the net for the third straight outing. Freshman attackman Christian Daniel added a goal and assist for the Mids (1-2), who have now won 21 of their last 25 home openers.

“Like I just told the guys in the locker room, sometimes the first one is the hardest one. It certainly was tough out there today,” Navy head coach Rick Sowell said. “You have to give credit to UMBC, which is well-coached and did a nice job. We also have to give credit to ourselves. I thought we really grinded it out.”

Freshman attackman Trevor Patschorke scored two goals and assisted another for UMBC (1-1), which had opened the season with an upset of No. 20 Richmond. Sophomore attackman Ryan Frawley had a goal and an assist for the Retrievers, who have won just four of 27 games against the Midshipmen.

“From a statistical standpoint, you’re not going to win many games scoring five goals,” UMBC head coach Ryan Moran said. “When you generate 35 shots and only score five goals, that’s not a very good stat.”

UMBC got off 21 shots in the second half alone and had just three goals to show for it. Patschorke, a Severna Park High grad, and junior midfielder Billy Nolan, an Arundel High alum, took nine shots apiece.

“I think we just need to execute a little better. We were getting a lot of good looks so it’s on us to can those shots,” Patschorke said.

Faceoff specialist Joe Varello played a critical role for Navy by winning 12 of 15 draws. Varello got superb assistance from his wing men, who were usually Torain and freshman long-stick midfielder Jeff Durden. Varello schooled UMBC sophomore specialist Jake Brothers, prompting Moran to put long-stick midfielder Billy O’Hara (South River) at the faceoff stripe.

“When a team switches to the pole they usually want to turn it into a three-on-three situation,” Varello said. “Greyson and Jeff did a great job of talking to me. I just threw it out in space and let them do their job. Almost all those ground balls off the faceoffs were by the wing guys.”

Varello sat out the season opener at Jacksonville due to a Naval Academy-imposed suspension and Navy lost 19 of 22 faceoffs that day. The senior out of Smithtown West on Long Island was reinstated by the Commandant of Midshipmen after successfully performing his remediation and promptly captured 12 of 18 draws against Maryland.

“Watching my team on TV was one of the lowest points of my life. Being back in the locker room and running out on the field behind the flag is the greatest feeling in the world, and something I’ll never take for granted again,” Varello said. “Wearing this jersey is an honor and a privilege. I wasn’t living up to the standards at that point so I wasn’t allowed to wear the jersey, but I’m happy now to be back with my brothers.”

Daniels snatched a loose ball out of midair and finished from the doorstep to give Navy a 3-2 lead with 5:26 remaining in the second quarter. Just 21 seconds later, freshman midfielder Logan Spilker (Severna Park) took a pass from running mate Ian Burgoyne, dodged past a long pole and walked right to the crease for a point-blank shot that put the Mids ahead 4-2 at intermission.

UMBC came out strong to start the second half with Patschorke scoring off a wicked sidearm crank shot at the 9:23 mark then rebounding a save by Kern and putting the ball away from the doorstep to tie the score at four with 6:18 to go.

That is when Torain took over and was the catalyst of a 3-0 run that turned the tide in favor of Navy. The Glen Burnie resident fired a short bounce shot past UMBC freshman goalie Tommy Lingner, dodged and found Jack Ray open on the crease for a goal then juked a defender and unleashed a powerful overhand crank shot.

“I didn’t think it was time for me to take over. I just played within our offense and had some help from other players,” said Torain, who credited attackman Dave Little with setting a great pick on one of of his goals. “It was really important that Joe was winning faceoffs and giving me the opportunity to get the ball on offense. We kind of woke up a little bit — just a little bit — but enough to score a few goals.”

Those three goals in the span of less than three minutes gave Navy a 7-4 lead it would not relinquish.

“We never could really get some separation. We were up at half and they came back and tied it,” Sowell said. “That’s where we showed some character by scoring those next three, which ultimately was the difference.”

Navy has only managed 18 goals through three games, not nearly what was expected out of an offense that had four returning starters and regained the services of All-American midfielder Casey Rees.

“We’re leaving some goals behind. We’re not scoring on things we should be scoring. I know I had open shots I should have put in the net,” Torain said. “Overall, I think we’re getting better, but we’ve been saying that for three games now. We have to put it together and start scoring more goals in order to be successful.”

Navy’s defense dominated the rest of the way, forcing UMBC to settle for low-percentage perimeter attempts and harassing the shooters. Nolan scored off a left-handed rocket with 5:29 left in the fourth quarter to cut the deficit to two, but that was the only goal the visitors could muster over the final 21 minutes, 18 seconds.

“Middle of the third quarter was the difference in the game. Somehow or another we lost some steam offensively,” said Moran, who spent three seasons as an assistant at Navy. “I think their on-ball pressure and athleticism really made it difficult for us. I think there were tons of people open inside, but you’re only open if we can get it to you.”

Wet snow that had been pouring since the start got a little heavier as the game wore on and conditions became a factor.

“That was a huge stretch. The weather got bad and we just couldn’t get anything going offensively. All the while our defense was hanging tight on the other end and keeping goals off the board,” Sowell said of the extended UMBC drought that lasted the final 6:18 of the third period and initial 9:31 of the fourth. “They’ve played well the last couple weeks. They’re getting into a nice groove, a nice rhythm so we’re pretty excited about what’s happening on that end of the field.”

Senior close defenseman Michael Strack has been the lone returning starter on that side of the field for Navy, although classmate D.J. Plumer (Kent Island High) saw significant action as a short-stick defensive midfielder. Senior Steve Hincks, another returning starter on close defense, has yet to play while recovering from a detached retina.

Navy started a pair of freshman long poles in Durden and Andrew McKenna while a third plebe, Tim Griffin, got a lot of runs at short-stick defensive middie.

Turnovers continue to be an issue for the Midshipmen, who committed 19 on Saturday and now have 49 in three games.

“We made some bad decisions. Then there were times where we had easy pass-and-catch opportunities that we just failed to execute,” Sowell said. “If we don’t clear better or take better care of the ball we’re really putting ourselves behind the eight-ball. I’m confident that we’ll clean things up going forward.”

UMBC (1-1) 1-1-2-1=5

Navy (1-2) 0-4-3-0=7

GOALS: UMBC – Patschorke 2, Frawley, Nolan, Schimoler. N – Torain 2, Daniel, Ray, Little, Varello, Spilker. ASSISTS: UMBC – Frawley, Patschorke. N – Burgoyne, Daniel, Torain, Wade. SHOTS: UMBC – 35. N – 30. SAVES: UMBC – Lingner 7. N – Kern 10. GROUND BALLS: UMBC – 24. Navy – 29. FACEOFFS: UMBC – 3. N – 12. TURNOVERS: UMBC – 14. N – 19.

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