ANNAPOLIS | Lehigh gave up an extra-man goal and another off a faceoff. It appeared to overplay Navy at times early Friday evening, creating space for the Midshipmen to zip in close shots and miss a few more.
Then the second quarter arrived and the No. 7 Mountain Hawks settled in, and that meant the No. 19 Midshipmen’s chances – both to score and escape with a victory – dissipated as a chilly evening set in at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
Lehigh left with a 9-4 victory, a triumph every bit a credit to a stingy defense that left the Mids (5-4, 3-2 Patriot) baffled as their four-game winning streak ended.
“It just seemed like every time you go to goal, there’s someone there,” coach Rick Sowell said. “You try to move the ball, and there’s someone there. You try to beat them, and you can’t. Beating them off the dribble, if you will, is not easy.”
Patrick Corbett scored three goals for the Mountain Hawks (10-1, 3-0), who played without suspended leading scorer David DiMaria.
Lehigh did not create constant stress on Navy at the offensive end, instead opportunistically tossing in a couple rebounds, scoring on an extra man opportunity and exploiting matchups against the Mids’ short stick defensive midfielders. There was enough crafty play to provide a cushion for a defense Navy simply couldn’t solve after building a 4-1 lead.
The Mids were held scoreless for the final 42 minutes and did not score a six-on-six goal in the final 54 minutes. Little wonder Lehigh coach Kevin Cassese re-assured the Mountain Hawks after they forged a 4-4 tie at the half.
“We felt like ‘Listen, let’s relax here for a second. Let’s keep them playing half-field offense versus our half-field defense and we’re going to be fine in the end,’” Cassese said. “We did a better job of doing that. We didn’t give them anything that was unearned in the second half.”
Really, Lehigh didn’t give Navy anything at all after the break.
After some antsy play initially, the Mountain Hawks simply didn’t allow Navy much possession time – and few looks when the Mids actually set up their offense. Navy had the ball for an estimated 11:43 in the first quarter and 11:56 over the next two quarters combined.
The looks when they had the ball were decidedly different as the game progressed.
“The crease in the first half was a lot more open and we had a lot of guys have opportunities and we were drawing the double and looking to just kind of dish it,” attackman Taylor Reynolds said. “In the second half, they were a little slower to go and if they did go, it was kind of go/no-go. They kind of baited us into giving it up and we really didn’t get an advantage. They made it a lot harder to get to the goal.”
Navy would muster only seven shots (two on goal) in the second half. Meanwhile, Lehigh took the lead less than a minute after halftime and slowly extinguished any hope for the Mids’ flustered offense.
“They had an answer for everything we tried to do,” Sowell said.