He started nearly the entire second half of last year, lifted only for the Patriot League semifinals in favor of Matt Coughlin. The Coughlin and freshman RJ Wickham started this season before Meade turned to Phelan last weekend.
He responded with a 15-save performance – Navy’s best since 2003 – and might have provided the spark the Mids (7-3) were looking for entering April.
“It’s like Dorothy. The slippers were on the whole time,” Meade said. “We have these shapes and sizes and we know what we’re looking for and we have ability. At the end of the day, we went back to the guy who can stop the ball.”
Of course, it’s not that simple for Navy, which meets Maryland (6-3) tonight in Annapolis in a game colleague Stephen Whyno will capably handle. But the thing is, Navy hasn’t exactly been stable at goalie in the last two seasons.
Over the last 19 games, Navy has made six goalie switches (if you count the offseason from Phelan to Coughlin a switch). That’s a lot of change.
It’s also been 41 games since Matt Russell graduated. Navy’s had 10 games in which its starting goalie managed 11 saves.
Phelan has five of them – in all of eight career starts.
No wonder he respectfully disagreed with Meade when he remained benched for the first half of the season.
“He believes he’s the starting goalie,” Meade said. “There’s no doubt in Tommy’s mind that he’s the guy. I appreciate that and that’s exactly what he should think.”
Based on this chart covering the last three seasons, he has reason to:
|Phelan||15||2009||at Georgetown||W, 10-8|
|Finnegan||14||2007||at North Carolina||W, 19-8|
|Finnegan||14||2007||at Lehigh||W, 9-5|
|Finnegan||14||2007||at Georgetown||L, 10-9|
|Phelan||13||2008||at Colgate||W, 8-3|
|Phelan||13||2008||Georgetown||L, 11-10 (OT)|
|Phelan||12||2008||at UNC (NCAA)||W, 8-7|
|Phelan||11||2008||at Maryland||W, 5-4|
Meade likes to describe Navy’s paradigm – his word, not mine – as having one goalie who is “the guy.”
And right now and probably for the rest of the season, that guy is Phelan.
“He’s waited his whole career for this moment,” Meade said. “There’s no doubt he is the guy. It doesn’t really matter how we came to that conclusion. He doesn’t have to look over his shoulder. He’s going to play that position until it’s over. He’s never been in that position before, and it’s good for him.”