Navy women’s lacrosse coach Cindy Timchal takes a dim view of the word revenge in sports.
“Revenge only means you lost the last time,” she said.
While that may be the case, Navy’s players are nonetheless excited to get another shot at archrival Army after losing the Star game last month. Call it redemption and not revenge.
Army and Navy will meet for the second time in two weeks in the semifinals of the Patriot League Tournament on Thursday at Ridley Athletic Complex in Baltimore. The Midshipmen look to turn the tables on the Black Knights, who controlled play on both ends of the field in winning the regular-season matchup, 14-9, in Annapolis.
“We’re all real excited to play Army again in a big game that is win or go home,” Navy co-captain Reagan Roelofs said. “Obviously, we don’t ever want to lose the Star game, especially at home. We didn’t play our best lacrosse that day. This is a chance to show we’re a better team than that.”
In her 40th year as a college lacrosse coach, Timchal has always relished what she called “May Madness.” Navy is making its 14th appearance in the Patriot League Tournament, having qualified every season since becoming a member in 2008. The Midshipmen are 18-7 all-time in the tournament and have captured six conference championships.
“Playing in the tournament is something that has always been part of Navy women’s lacrosse culture,” Timchal said. “We’ve had a very solid season so far and have put ourselves in position to play important games in the postseason.”
Consecutive losses to Army and Loyola to close out the regular season dropped Navy to the third seed. It hosted American in Sunday’s quarterfinals, where Roelofs fired in six goals as the Mids easily dispatched the Eagles, 23-13, to advance.
Roelofs scored the opening goal against Army then was shut out the rest of the way. The Black Knights elected to shut off the senior attacker who is Navy’s leading scorer with 63 points on 47 goals and 16 assists.
Without Roelofs involved, the Navy offense looked tentative and out of sync, limited to single-digit goals for only the second time in the season.
“Our offense has to work together a little bit better. They threw that faceguard at me, which was something we weren’t really prepared for. Now we have a game plan to deal with that,” said Roelofs, who was named first team All-Patriot League this week.
Since the shutoff strategy was effective, Timchal expects Army to at least initially faceguard Roelofs again. First-year Army coach Michelle Tumolo knows the legendary Hall of Fame coach will find a way to counteract that tactic if employed.
“I don’t think Navy is going to sit back and handle the faceguard the same way they did the last game. They’re going to make adjustments and we need to be ready for those,” Tumolo said.
Navy had a total of four first team picks with midfielder Gil Eby, along with defenders Alexis Bell and Christine Fiore getting honored. Midfielder Kasey Dietzel and goalie Jo Torres were second team selections.
Dietzel is the team’s second-leading scorer with 39 points on 24 goals and 15 assists. Bell and Fiore spearhead a defense that had been holding opponents to less than eight goals per game prior to allowing 40 in the last three contests.
Second-seeded Army had five players named all-conference with sophomore attacker Julia Gorajek and junior midfielder Jolie Riedell earning first team laurels. Junior attacker Kathleen Sullivan, sophomore attacker Carleigh Armstrong and senior defender Ceara Sweeney were all second team.
Gorajeck leads the Black Knights with 52 goals, second-highest total in program history. Riedell ranks second with 49 goals (four of which have been game-winners) and has also garnered a team-high 66 draw controls.
Sullivan, a South River High graduate, set single-season school records with 76 points and 31 assists. Armstrong is the other key figure in a high-powered Army offense with 45 goals.
Gorajek and Riedell scored four goals apiece to spark the offense in the victory over Navy. Goalie Lacey Bartholomay was a difference-maker for the Black Knights, recording 17 saves in her best performance of the campaign.
“Give credit to Army for all the little things they did well in that first game. They put us on our heels a bit,” Timchal said. “We need to play a little tougher defensively and we need to generate more quality scoring opportunities offensively.”
Bartholomay made several superb saves early and that seemed to rattle the Navy shooters, who started aiming too much and wound up hitting numerous pipes. There were too many other instances when the Mids made the sophomore look good by throwing the ball right to her stick.
This marks the second time Army and Navy have met in the Patriot League Tournament. In 2019, the Mids routed the Black Knights, 20-10, in the semifinals.
This marks the third Patriot League Tournament appearance for Army, which elevated women’s lacrosse to varsity status in 2016.
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“We’re trying to make more history for our program. We’re focused on what’s at stake, getting to the championship game for the first time,” Tumolo said.
Tumolo, who previously led Wagner into the NCAA Tournament, knows Navy is smarting from the Star game loss and looking to prove a point.
“We’re ready for Navy to come guns blazing and really get after it. We need to match or exceed their intensity,” she said.
NAVY vs. ARMY
Thursday, 7 p.m.
Ridley Athletic Complex, Baltimore
Source: Capital Gazette