- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 15, 2005

ANNAPOLIS — Navy is back in the NCAA tournament quarterfinals. Whether Steve Looney will join the Midshipmen there on the field is far less certain.

Matt Russell made a season-high 13 saves and freshman Nick Mirabito scored three goals as the Mids held off Delaware 9-7 in the first round yesterday before 3,548 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

Fifth-seeded Navy (12-3) won for the fifth time in six games and will meet Virginia at Homewood Field in Baltimore on Saturday.

Looney suffered a right leg injury in practice Thursday, and was on the sideline yesterday on crutches with a cast on his foot. Navy coach Richie Meade said the versatile midfielder, who leads Navy with 60 groundballs, would be re-evaluated this week, but it seems possible he could miss the rest of the tournament. Tommy Wallin slid into Looney’s spot on the first midfield line, and Kevin Raspet picked up additional work on the faceoff wings.

“We have all the confidence in the world on guys like Tommy to step up,” Russell said. “It’s obviously upsetting, especially for Steve Looney. There’s not a guy that loves being out on the field more than him.

“We have plenty of guys to step up. … I think that’s one of our advantages. Every single guy wants to play so bad on our team. If he goes out there, he’s going to do well.”

Russell, a first-team All-American last year, enjoyed one of his finest games of the season against the Blue Hens (11-6). The goalie energized the Mids with nine first-half saves, including several from point-blank range, to offset Delaware’s 8-2 faceoff edge before the break.

Russell’s performance, which came after a spring partially spent recovering first from Navy SEAL training in the preseason and then a severely sprained ankle in early April, could be a hint of things to come for the junior.

“It would be great for the goalie to get hot — I’m all for that,” Meade said. “But you do need all your players to be playing well. Matt Russell’s a first-team All-American, and if he’s playing at the top of his game, we become a very, very dangerous team because he has the ability to make 25 or 30 saves in a game.”

With Russell saving nearly everything in sight, Navy dominated the first 40 minutes. The Mids scored six straight goals to build an 8-2 lead, all the while methodically probing the Blue Hens’ various zone sets and eschewing the outside shots Delaware conceded in favor of better opportunities near the crease.

“It just came down to patience,” Mirabito said. “A lot of times, teams would just try to force it too much and that’s why the zone would work. We possessed the ball at times and were able to crack their zone successfully.”

Yet the Blue Hens scored once on extra-man and twice on Navy defensive breakdowns to pull within 8-5 by the end of the third.

Delaware eventually pared the lead to 9-7 when Joe Trentzsch scored with 1:26 left. The Blue Hens won the next faceoff, and Cam Howard appeared to score after dodging Mitch Hendler and beating Russell, but officials ruled Delaware coach Bob Shillinglaw had called a timeout before the shot. The Blue Hens never got another shot off as the Mids escaped to the quarterfinals.

“We had more defensive personnel on the field and Cam saw an opening and went to the cage,” Shillinglaw said. “At that point, I called a timeout. No sooner than the top of my hand touched my fingers [than] I thought, ‘This is one I’m going to regret.’ I saw him get inside and I thought, ‘I hope [the official] didn’t hear me.’

“He heard me. … It’s just one of those things where you’re darned if you do and darned if you don’t.”

Johns Hopkins 22, Marist 6

BALTIMORE — Kevin Huntley scored four goals and Paul Rabil added two goals and four assists as the Blue Jays (13-0) matched a program record for goals in a postseason game and ripped the Red Foxes (8-8) at Homewood Field.

Duke 23, Fairfield 4

DURHAM, N.C. — Dan Flannery had four goals and four assists and Matt Danowski added five goals and two assists to lead the Blue Devils (15-2) past the Stags (11-5).

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