Navy punches ticket to NCAA tournament
The Midshipmen are embroiled in Exams Week, but they passed what might have been their toughest test by beating No. 15 Colgate (9-5) and No. 14 Bucknell (9-7) to capture the Patriot League tournament championship – the fifth one in the last six seasons.
No. 11 Navy (11-4) became the first school to qualify for the NCAA tournament, which means the Midshipmen won’t have to sweat out Selection Sunday in six days.
"We went through that last year, and that’s not something we were anxious to repeat," coach Richie Meade said. "The circumstances that led us to getting into last year’s tournament were pretty unique. I’m not sure that all those things would have happened again. I’m not sure we would have been selected, but I’m not a prognosticator. So I don’t try to attempt to figure out what’s going to happen or what should happen. I just deal with what’s happening. We were in a position to control our destiny, and our kids did a real good job of doing that."
The Midshipmen had plenty of players step up during the tournament. In Friday’s 9-8 triple-overtime win against the Red Raiders, junior midfielder Joe Lennon (Loyola) scored four times – including the game-tying and game-winning goals – junior faceoff specialist Robby Battle won 13 of 20 faceoffs, and freshman defenseman Matt Vernam limited Tewaaraton Trophy finalist Brandon Corp to a single goal.
In Sunday’s 9-8 victory over the Bison, junior attackman Brendan Connors scored three times and assisted on another goal, junior long-stick midfielders Zack Schroeder and Jaren Woeppel shut out Patriot League Freshman of the Year Charlie Streep, and senior defenseman Andy Tormey surrendered just one goal to attackman Joe Mele.
While lauding the play of the second short-stick defensive midfielder unit of junior Joe McAuliffe and sophomore Marty Gallagher and freshman attackman Ryan O’Leary, Meade singled out Woeppel, who was named to the All-Patriot League second team.
"Over the course of the two days, the guy that’s being overlooked is Jaren Woeppel, who got a billion groundballs on faceoffs," Meade said. "He covered Streep and just devoured him. The first night, none of the Colgate guys got any leverage on him at all. Jaren’s kind of been a guy who’s steady and no one notices him, and he’s done a great job, too."
While the Midshipmen don’t have to worry about getting into the tournament, Meade said the players and coaches will have plenty to analyze and work on if they intend to stay a while in the tournament.
"I feel like we can still get better as a team," he said. "And we’re going to have to in order to have some impact on this tournament."