With time winding down in the third quarter, it appeared Army had all the momentum in its men's lacrosse showdown with archrival Navy.
The Black Knights led by three goals and had a golden opportunity to tack on another score after gaining a man advantage.
Freshman goalie Ryan Kern and senior faceoff specialist Brady Dove took it upon themselves to turn the momentum in favor of host Navy.
Kern recorded a career-high 17 saves while Dove captured 11 of 18 faceoffs as Navy rallied to upset sixth-ranked Army, 10-6, before a record crowd of 12,705 on Saturday. It was the highest attendance for an Army-Navy game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium and the second-largest crowd in series history behind the 2010 contest that drew 20,911 to M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.
Sophomore attackman Ryan Wade scored two goals and dished off two assists for the Midshipmen, who trailed 6-3 with 3 ½ minutes left in the third quarter. Junior attackman David Little and sophomore midfielder Greyson Torain both contributed two goals and an assist.
"A great win for a team that's had to battle through some adversity," Navy head coach Rick Sowell said. "I think the way we played in this game kind of caps off who these guys really are. We got down, but stayed the course and kept fighting. That's kind of indicative of what this team is all about."
Kern and Dove did their best work after Navy fell behind by three late in the third period. Kern did not allow another goal and made 10 of his saves in the fourth quarter. Dove won 8 of the last 11 faceoffs to repeatedly give the Midshipmen possession.
"In the end, their play up the middle was the difference," Army head coach Joe Alberici said. "Dove, from the 3:30 mark of the third quarter, really took over. Kern may have played the best game of his young career."
Senior defenseman Chris Fennell had a huge game for Navy (6-7, 4-4), which clinched a berth in the six-team Patriot League Tournament with the win. Fennell limited Army leading scorer Cole Johnson to one goal on just three shots and also assisted on the go-ahead goal.
"Fennell is the best defenseman in the league. I don't think our picking game was as effective as it needed to be to get Fennell off Cole Johnson,'' Alberici said.
Sophomore attackman Nate Jones scored two goals while junior midfielder David Symmes had a goal and an assist to lead Army (10-2, 6-1), which suffered its first conference loss. Army will host Loyola on Friday night with the winner capturing the Patriot League regular season championship.
Army faceoff ace Dan Grabher got the best of Dove for the better part of three quarters. The Kent Island High graduate, who holds the Navy career record for faceoff wins, made an adjustment that turned things around.
Perhaps the game's most important faceoff came with Army leading by three and poised to have an extra man opportunity. Dove won the draw and Navy was able to kill off a minute penalty.
Torain used his speed to elude double-teams during the man-down situation then drew a penalty himself. The Glen Burnie resident then fired in a left-handed crank shot to cut the deficit to 6-4 with 1:11 left in the third period.
Dove won the ensuing faceoff and weaved his way to the cage for an unassisted goal just 10 seconds later and suddenly it was 6-5. It was the first goal of the season for the Stevensville resident and just the fifth of his career.
"That goal Brady scored was huge because it got us within one and gave us momentum going into the fourth quarter," said Sowell, who praised the faceoff work down the stretch by the standout senior. "We made an adjustment that worked. I'm not so sure it wasn't more desire than the actual technical adjustment he made."
Kern made a spectacular save of a hard shot by Johnson then came out of his cage to scoop the loose ball. He passed ahead to Fennell, who cleared the ball into the offensive end then dished to a wide-open Little, who finished the beautiful fastbreak with a hard shot from 8 yards out to give Navy the lead for good, 7-6 with 8:20 to go. Wade then blew past defenseman Johnny Surdick from behind the cage to provide a two-goal advantage with 3:19 remaining. The Mids then scored two goals into an empty net as the Black Knights pulled the goalie in order to chase the ball.
Navy's players tossed their lacrosse sticks high in the air as they charged onto the field to mob Kern, who was playing in his first Army-Navy game. The Middletown, Delaware resident made just three stops in the first half, but became impenetrable with the game on the line.
"It was crazy. I was just locked in. D.J. Plumer came up to me before the fourth quarter and said 'No more goals.' Everybody just had that indomitable will to win today," Kern said. "I have to give credit to my defense. They were giving me low angle shots from 12-plus (yards). I made a couple saves late in the third quarter and early in the fourth that really boosted my confidence."
It was the third straight Star game victory for Navy, which now leads the overall series 60-35-3. Navy's nine seniors were honored in a pregame ceremony and left Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium for the last time as winners.
"To get this win for the seniors is special. I'm proud of what they've been done for this program over the last four years," Sowell said. "Just a great day for Navy lacrosse."
Army (10-2, 6-1) 0-4-2-0=6
Navy (6-7, 4-4) 2-1-2-5=10
GOALS: A – Jones 2, Symmes, Glesener, Johnson, Grabher. N – Wade 2, Little 2, Torain 2, Flounlacker, Ray, Dove, Hill. ASSISTS: A – George, Glancy, Miller, Symmes. N – Wade 2, Fennell, Little, Torain. SHOTS: A – 41. N – 30. SAVES: A – Barretto 7. N – Kern 17.