Postscript from Johns Hopkins at Navy
I enjoy talking to Richie Meade, and one thing I like about the Navy coach is that underneath his gruff demeanor, it's obvious that he cares deeply about the young men that their parents have entrusted to him. Even still, I have to admit that I was a little surprised to see Meade well up with emotion after the Midshipmen’s 9-8 overtime victory over No. 15 Johns Hopkins at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis on Saturday.
I was aware that the outcome snapped Navy’s 36-game losing skid to the Blue Jays, but as an outsider, I had no idea the impact that slide had on the players, coaches and supporters who had endured each loss that seemed to compound the frustration and heartache.
When asked about walking off the field after previous losses to Johns Hopkins, Meade took a few moments during his response to compose himself and when he did talk, you could clearly hear the emotion in his voice. I’ve tried to add some of that emotion in the transcript below.
"When we’ve played Hopkins in the past, there have been a lot of times [pause and sigh] I’ve walked off this field and have to [pause] walk into the locker room and deal with my kids and knew that they played their hearts out and they didn’t win," Meade said. "We’re not talking about once in a while here. We’re talking about a cumulative time. I mean, I remember 1985 [when Johns Hopkins won, 24-10]. I remember that game, I remember other games, I remember games where we played great and we didn’t win. And the reason why we didn’t win was because we were playing Johns Hopkins. If we had played anybody else that day, we would’ve beat them. … That’s all I really care about, to be honest with you. I’m the same coach I was yesterday. This doesn’t mean anything to me personally except that we won this game and I’m happy about it. But to our players and the players that weren’t successful when they played their guts out and to have them have to deal with that time and time again, that’s really the thing that has bothered me the most. So I think it’s important for our alumni. There are a lot of guys in that locker room that were great players here, that kind of built what we have become here over the last seven or eight years. A lot of guys are in the locker room, and that means so much to me. That means so much to me that this game means so much to them. That’s what I’m thankful for."
Meade choked up again when commenting on the team’s rally from a 5-0 deficit after the first quarter.
"It’s been a tough year, but it’s been a year that I’ve enjoyed a lot because we really have had to look inside of ourselves," he said. "We’ve had to just keep fighting. The only thing [pause] I really hope I teach these guys is to keep fighting, to believe in themselves and to be good leaders. That’s it. That’s a trait I think this team has."
*Meade tends to downplay his leadership skills, especially with the media. Here’s what he had to say about what he told his players prior to Saturday’s contest. "I don’t have any catchy slogans," he said. "Before the game, I looked every one of them in the eye, and I said, ‘You’re midshipmen at the Naval Academy. You’re future leaders. People’s lives are going to be in your hands. You understand the mission, you understand what you’re required to do. I want you to get it done.’ That’s the way we approached it."
*The Midshipmen will play in the Patriot League Tournament on Friday as either the No. 2 or No. 3 seed. If Navy can capture its sixth Patriot League Tournament crown in seven years, the team will secure the automatic qualifier and make its seventh consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament. That’s why Meade emphasized not getting lost in the hoopla surrounding Saturday’s victory. "I also told them in the locker room that this does nothing if this is the highlight of our season," he said. "There’s a tournament next week that’s extremely important to us. So I think we have to enjoy this and then move on."
*When junior attackman Andy Warner scored his game-winning goal with 10 seconds left in overtime, it was actually a repeat of a previous play earlier in the extra period. But on that play, Warner was stuffed by Johns Hopkins freshman goalkeeper Pierce Bassett. Asked if he had an reservations about attempting the same play, Warner said, "No, I wanted to run it again. I thought it was a weakness we could take advantage of all day, and we did for the most part. We got two assists off it, and the second time, there was no anxiety. I just knew that I had to take another step and put it home."
*Warner will be remembered for his goal, but a senior long-stick midfielder Zack Schroeder was responsible for a critical play earlier in overtime. With about 2:29 left in the extra session, Schroeder stripped Blue Jays senior midfielder Michael Kimmel of the ball. Senior defenseman Gordon Lawson scooped up the groundball – his sixth of the game – and gave it to the offense to set up Warner’s heroics. "Well, he got me the first time. So I had to get him the second time," said Schroeder, who got the start in place of senior Jaren Woeppel, who missed his third straight game due to an injured right hamstring. "Gordo slid, and he rolled back. I thought, ‘I’m going to stay on the double.’ I just got a good piece of his stick when he went to pass it. Gordo picked up the groundball, got it up to [junior defensive midfielder] Marty [Gallagher], and that was it."
*A week after praising his team for setting what he called "the standard" in a 10-9 loss to No. 5 Maryland at the Smartlink Day of Rivals doubleheader at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Johns Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala sharply criticized his team’s play on Saturday. Although the Blue Jays’ biggest gaffe was allowing Navy to rally from a 5-0 deficit after the first quarter, Pietramala was most disappointed by the team’s lackadaisical effort in the second quarter. "When things get tight, we don’t present a lot of poise and composure, and that’s got to start with our upperclassmen, and it’s got to be passed down," Pietramala said. "You’re not winning the game when you’re losing groundballs like we did. … You’re not winning if you’re not winning face-offs, and you’re not winning when you’re throwing the ball away like we did. We’ve cleared the ball well this year, but I’m not sure when we started throwing no-look passes and behind-the-back flips. I’m not sure when we started going over the head. I just thought we played with a complete and total lack of discipline today, and Navy took advantage of those acts. Give them credit, they earned a win. We’re both in the same place at the end of [regulation], but they made the plays they needed to make to win the game."