With 09 left in the third quarter of Navy's matchup against Maryland on Friday, the drama and excitement of the rivalry game got serious.
Attackman Tim Paul, Navy's leading scorer, was carrying the ball behind the net when he tried to plant his left leg in the soggy field. He crumpled to the ground in pain and grabbed his left ankle. Paul left the game with the help of two staff members, but goalie Tommy Phelan and the Midshipmen didn't let the injury hurt them.
Phelan had a career-high 17 saves as No. 14 Navy beat No. 8 Maryland 10-4 before 15,109 — the largest crowd to see a lacrosse game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium against an opponent other than Johns Hopkins.
After the game, Paul walked off the field on crutches, wearing a walking boot on his left foot. Coach Richie Meade said the junior was set to go for an X-ray, adding that the team would know more by Monday.
“Tim's our go-to guy, and once [he got hurt], we knew we had to step it up,” senior Andy Tormey said. “We had to put it on our shoulders and get the victory.”
Paul leads Navy with 17 goals and 30 points, and he has eight multipoint games this season. But the injury kept him from building on the one assist he recorded in the first half. That's when his teammates — specifically Bruce Nechanicky — made up for Paul's absence.
Nechanicky scored just over a minute after Paul went down to boost Navy's lead to 4-2, and the senior scored again with eight seconds left in the quarter. But it was Phelan's performance that kept Maryland from making the game close. He made a variety of point-blank saves — allowing only two first-half goals — and frustrated the Terrapins as they tried to find offensive rhythm.
Phelan's 17 saves came less than a week after he had 15 in a win against Georgetown. He attributed his recent stretch to good scouting and defense — and the pressure he feels during practice.
“It's kinda nice having a lot of great goalies behind you. So in a way, you're always looking back, you're never really relaxed in practice, you're always concentrating,” he said. “That just makes game day that much easier.”
While Phelan kept Maryland (6-4) off the scoreboard for crucial stretches, the Terps didn't do themselves any favors. Meade said the Terps had so many guys open that they didn't know where to pass the ball. Many times, whether it was because of the gusting wind or poor decisions, the ball didn't make it to another Maryland player. The team finished with 20 turnovers.
“I just thought we turned the ball over way too much,” coach Dave Cottle said. “We have to fix some things, obviously, and I'm very disappointed.”
Maryland-Navy has featured some memorable games the past few years, so much so that this lopsided result took Meade by surprise. And so it was that the Mids (8-3) celebrated senior night by recording the largest margin of victory in the series since 1998.
“It was a very big night for our seniors,” Meade said. “And for them to be able to win this game in front of this crowd this way — certainly they'll remember that for a long time.”