- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 12, 2009

BALTIMORE | The gloomy, soggy morning portended a smaller-than-expected crowd at the Day of Rivals lacrosse doubleheader at M&T Bank Stadium.

It also set up a redemptive day for Navy goalie Tommy Phelan.

The senior made 16 saves as the No. 12 Midshipmen doubled up Army 8-4 despite playing with their top offensive player.

Junior attackman Brendan Connors had three goals and two assists for the Midshipmen (9-3, 4-2 Patriot), who avenged last year's loss to the Black Knights (5-7, 1-4).

“It's been a very long year for us and for me personally, thinking about last year's game every day,” Navy coach Richie Meade said. “I thought Army deserved to win last year's game in that they brought all the intangibles, they played with great emotion, they seized the lead and the game and we were never able to overcome that. I thought we did that to them this year.”

So much of it was because of Phelan, who remained glued to the sideline until Meade made his second goalie audible of the season late last month. It initially paid off when the Mids upended Georgetown and Maryland and started to salvage what was once a frustrating season.

Still, Navy's early one-goal losses were not nearly as troubling to the Mids as their setback a year ago against Army - a defeat that snapped a 13-game winning streak in the series. It weighed heavily on Phelan, who endured one of the worst games in his career in that 9-6 defeat.

“I was thinking to myself, 'I'm probably the only Navy goalie who's lost to Army in the last decade,' ” Phelan said. “A big win over Maryland and a big win over Colgate didn't mean anything when we couldn't beat Army.”

He won't have to wrestle with such worries again, particularly after Navy raced to a 4-1 lead despite the absence of attackman Tim Paul (ankle).

Phelan, though, ensured the Mids would survive and clinch the No. 3 seed in the Patriot League tournament. He made eight of his saves in the third quarter, securing his third straight performance of at least 15 saves.

“I think having a rainy day and not having a bright day with 4,000 Mids in their white uniforms right behind the ball kind of helps,” Phelan said. “Last week with a night game and this week with the cloudy background helped a lot.”

Phelan's slick day was augmented by a coalescing defense. The Mids turned the Black Knights' miscues into transition chances, and Navy held a pair of 20-goal scorers (Jeremy Boltus and Jason Peyer) to a combined one goal and one assist.

“Nobody's uptight, nobody's worried about getting yelled at on the field,” defenseman Andy Tormey said. “I think that's really contributed to us having a good time and us limiting their shots to outside shots.”

It's a different Navy bunch than just a few weeks ago, when it seemed a hard-luck season might go nowhere. Instead, the Mids have collected three straight victories in rivalry games - with a showdown with nemesis Johns Hopkins looming next week.

“This is a very good team now,” Meade said before pausing. “I'm not going to say that.”

Too late. Not that it's wrong, especially since Navy enjoyed a fine hour in part because of a dark day.

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