- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 22, 2007

BALTIMORE — The conclusions of several tight games in recent years against Johns Hopkins have left Navy coach Richie Meade shaking his head.

None rendered him as frazzled as yesterday’s 10-9 loss.

The Mids (9-3) botched nine clears and dominated on faceoffs as they stumbled to their 33rd straight loss to the Blue Jays (6-4) before 6,856 at Homewood Field.

“We don’t have to analyze this game very much,” Meade said. “This is a coaching thing. I didn’t do what I need to do to get our team to be able to handle that part of the game the way they need to handle it. You can point the finger right at me.”

Stephen Peyser won 14 of 17 faceoffs and snared a career-high 12 groundballs for Hopkins, which toppled Navy by a goal for the fourth straight season.

Tim Paul scored three goals for Navy, which has dropped three of its last four.

The Mids’ other losses were also one-goal setbacks that easily could have turned out differently. For all of its foibles, Navy led 6-5 midway through the third quarter before surrendering three straight goals. Even then, seniors Billy Looney and Tommy Wallin scored to tie it 8-8.

But Navy’s defense gradually wore down after spending so much time on the field. Hopkins maintained possession for roughly two-thirds of the second half, and crafty junior midfielder Paul Rabil dodged Jaren Woeppel with 7:07 left before slinging in the go-ahead score.

Peyser won the ensuing faceoff, and the Blue Jays toyed with the Mids for nearly three minutes before striking again. Rabil again delivered a strike, marching down the middle before depositing a shot past Colin Finnegan (seven saves) with 4:20 left for his 100th career point.

“The most important commodity in a game like this is having the ball,” Meade said. “That’s what this all comes down to. If we clear it, we have it on offense.

“If we win the faceoff, we have it on offense. We took 21 shots and scored nine goals. You don’t have to be a math guy to figure that out.”

Peyser was responsible for much of the Mids’ misery.

Matched up against William Wallace, the nation’s No. 2 faceoff man, Peyser picked him apart with a clamp move before Navy committed to mixing and matching with Mikelis Visgauss and Dan Decker.

“I’ve kind of been going away from that,” Peyser said. “That was my high school move and I came here and developed another move. It’s a great move, but I kind of went back to my bread and butter today and it seemed to work, so I kept going with it.”

Peyser’s efficiency at taking care of the faceoffs on his own — “We couldn’t even make it a street fight,” Meade said — alleviated another problem for Hopkins. The junior usually runs on the first midfield line and also takes some shifts on defense, but he didn’t wear down on the warm spring afternoon.

On the other hand, the Mids seemed fatigued in the latter stages, and it was apparent when they flubbed clears in the third quarter and committed three turnovers in the final three minutes to prevent a rally.

“This whole thing isn’t about them. It’s about me not taking care of business,” Meade said as he choked back tears. “That’s what I’m most upset about. It’s about me not holding up my end of this bargain.”

It was the second straight victory for Hopkins, which was reeling a few weeks ago but has solidified its grasp on an NCAA tournament berth. Navy, meanwhile, was unbeaten less than a month ago, but might have less margin for error than it would like heading into Friday’s Patriot League semifinals.

The Mids’ foe? Army, a team Navy has taken 12 straight from and potentially a perfect antidote to another crushing loss to Hopkins.

“At Navy, you don’t need to get refocused for Army,” Looney said. “It’s probably the best team we could play after this game.”

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