- The Washington Times - Monday, May 17, 2004

ANNAPOLIS — One had to look no further than the histrionics of the Pennsylvania defensive unit to know how its day, and consequently the game, was going yesterday against Navy in an NCAA tournament first-round match.

Fiery looks to the sky and flailing sticks by Quakers defenders were followed by lengthy goal-mouth discussions as the Midshipmen celebrated four first-half goals at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. But seven second-half strikes, which resulted in an 11-5 Midshipmen win, turned the reactions into head-shaking wonder and the reluctant realization that Navy’s offense was too precise to stop.

“They play a lot of guys and they’re very athletic,” Penn coach Brian Voelker said. “And they can beat you from inside or outside because their attack is so balanced.”

Three third-quarter goals in less than 2 minutes by attackman Joe Bossi put the game out of reach and sent the second-seeded Mids (13-2) into the second round of the tournament for the first time in 15 years.

Bossi recorded four goals in the game with his first two coming on nearly identical plays midway through the third quarter. Attackman Ian Dingman held the ball about 5 yards left of the cage and Bossi caught his defender flat-footed and streaked from the right to the front of the net. He took the pass and converted the opportunity. On the next possession Bossi made the same cut and added a stick fake to beat Penn goalie Ryan Kelly, who anticipated the pass and charged out of the crease but was too late.

“I just saw openings,” Bossi said. “Whenever I cut, Ian was looking for me.”

Navy’s offense also worked methodically from behind the cage with almost every goal originating from there. Dingman and Jon Birsner each had two assists and were responsible for bringing Navy’s offense to life in the second half with steady performances behind the crease.

The Mids, who hadn’t played since edging Hobart for the Patriot League title two weeks ago, showed the rust as there were many sloppy passes and missed opportunities in the opening minutes. Goalie Matt Russell made five of his seven saves in the first half, allowing the Mids to settle into their game without falling behind.

As Navy pulled away in the second half, Penn (7-7) struggled to maintain possession. Annapolis native and Penn standout Will Phillips received little help from his teammates on the offensive end, finishing with a goal and an assist, one point shy of 100 for his career. Navy concentrated its defensive efforts on Phillips and the Quakers offense crumbled around him.

“We had a few turnovers early in possessions that were the result of our mistakes and sometimes Navy’s pressure,” Phillips said. “When Navy went on runs, we weren’t doing a good job holding onto the ball in response.”

Navy will face Cornell on Saturday for a chance to advance to the semifinals. But the Big Red are playing host to the quarterfinal game and will have the advantage of playing on their artificial turf surface. The Mids played just three games on artificial surfaces this year, all in the first half of the season and all against teams that finished outside the current top-15.

“It doesn’t matter where we’re playing them,” Navy coach Richie Meade said. “Everybody has a cross to bear in the tournament. That’s where the fight is, so that’s where we’ll go.”

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