WEST POINT, N.Y. -- The Virginia Military Institute men’s lacrosse team gave the United States Military Academy all it could handle Saturday afternoon at Michie Stadium. But a four-goal fourth quarter surged the Black Knights past the Keydets 14-8 in a nonconference matchup.
With less than 10 minutes to play, the Keydets trailed by just two goals against an Army team that received votes in the USILA Preseason Coaches’ Poll. But four Black Knight goals in the final seven minutes of the game sealed VMI’s fate.
“We spent a lot of time this week overhauling our defense and made some great strides. In addition, some of our young guys matured throughout the game and are starting to make a big impact especially, on the offensive side of the field,” said VMI head coach Brian Anken. “These early season games are important to see where we still need to develop. We are certainly not happy with the result but and very excited about the progress we have made.”
Prior to the game as part of Military Appreciation Day at the Academy, sophomore Tyler Prasnicki and his mother, Debbie Arthur, were presented with a United States flag in honor of his brother, Chase, who was killed in action this summer. Chase was a member of the football team at Army from 2006-10.
“It was a very emotional day for our program with a special pregame flag presentation to Tyler and his mother, Debbie Arthur. A special thanks to (football head coach) Rich Ellersion and (athletic director) Boo Corrigan for putting together this pregame event,” said Anken of the presentation.
VMI’s offense was led by senior Russell East, who logged three goals and had one assist. Junior Bernie Mowbray was the only other Keydet with multiple goals, striking twice while also logging one helper. The team’s youngsters got in on the scoring as well, with freshmen Alex Henthorn and Dan Bull striking once while sophomore pole Prasnicki scored once. Henthorn also added an assist to his day.
Despite a career second-best 19 saves by senior goalkeeper Matt Lindemann, the Keydets could not hold off Garrett Thul, who scored seven times and had one assist, accounting for half of Army’s potent offense. Teammate Alex Newsome chipped in another four goals while Alex Van Krevel, Andrew Boyd and Matt Mezer each tallied one goal.
“Our defensive game plan was to force Army's shooters to take lower percentage, outside shots and Matt got a great look at the ball throughout most of day,” said Anken of his 6-5 netminder. “We knew they like to shoot and we were willing to allow a lot of shots as long as Matt was able to get a good look at it.”
Nearly all of Army’s goals were assisted as John Glesener led the game with three helpers. Newsome added two assists for a six-point afternoon. Five other Black Knights (2-1) were credited with assists.
VMI (0-2) withstood a cannonade of shots as Army unleashed 60 attempts against the Keydets. Thul accounted for almost a third of those attempts, taking 19 on the day, including 12 on goal. Newsome took seven shots while Connor Cook took six.
The Keydets managed to take 18 shots, putting all but two of those chances on cage. The Black Knights opted to use two keepers, with Sam Somers starting the game, while Bobby Sincero played the final 30 minutes. The starter made just one save while allowing four goals. Sincero stopped seven shots but allowed an additional four.
After a slow start, winning just four faceoffs in the first half, the Keydets were a different team at the X in the second half, winning 12 of the 13 draws in the final 30 minutes. Sophomore Gaston Ledford was the only Keydet to take a face, going 16-25 (64.0 percent). Army’s head coach Joe Alberici threw everything he had at Ledford, with five Knights taking faceoffs. Only two managed to come up with wins, with Mezer winning eight of his 20 attempts and Nick Isnardi going 1-2.
“Gaston and his faceoff unit made some great adjustments at halftime and battled the entire game giving us some great opportunities for additional offense,” Anken noted of the vast improvement in the second half.
Ledford was the only player in the game to amass double-digit groundballs, picking up 11 of VMI’s 31. Army out-groundballed VMI 50-31 on the day, paced by Glesener’s eight.
VMI struggled in the clearing department, gaining the offensive zone just 19 times on 31 clears. Army failed to clear the ball just once, going 21-22. Uncharacteristic of VMI in the last two season, the Keydets drew eight penalties for seven minutes while the Black Knights were called four times for three minutes. Each team’s extra man unit went 50-percent, with VMI scoring twice and Army notching three man-up goals.
Prasnicki had a career day on defense, forcing three turnovers. He was the only VMI player with multiple caused turnovers, however, seven of his teammates forced turnovers.
The Keydets got things off on the right foot as Mowbray buried the game’s first goal, just two and half minutes in. But the Black Knights knotted the action one minute later as Newsome scored his first goal of the game. A senior and a freshman combined to give VMI a 2-1 edge as East finished a pass from Henthorn. The game would be scoreless for the next six minutes of the opening quarter before Thul, a Preseason All-American, tied to game at 2-2 to end the first.
Army wrested the lead in the first six seconds of the next period as Mezer tallied his marker. Newsome and Thul connected for Army’s first back-to-back goals of the game to put the Black Knights up 4-2. Newsome extended the lead to 5-2 with a third goal in the first half, getting a pass from Glesener.
The Keydets halted Army’s small run as East notched his second goal of the game with less than six minutes remaining in the first half. Thul struck again with 1:52 on the clock in the second quarter to put the Black Knights up 6-3. VMI had the last laugh in the first half however as Mowbray scored his second tally of the game with just 32 seconds remaining. East was credited with the assist and the Keydets headed into the break down just 6-4.
VMI wasted no time getting on the board in the fourth period as Hentorn put one past Sincero, who spelled the starter, Somers, in the second half. Thul and Boyd scored back-to-back goals to extend Army’s lead back to three, 8-5, with Boyd’s marker coming at 11:34 of the third. After a six-minute scoreless drought, Newsome scored again to put the Knights up 9-5.
It was a fitting day for Prasnicki to tally a goal at Michie Stadium, with his marker coming with five minutes left in the third and was the first half of back-to-back goals for the Keydets. Bull accounted for the other, notching his with 1:37 left in the third and cutting Army’s lead to 9-7.
Thul scored yet again for the Black Knights, who regained a three goal advantage with 13:12 to play in regulation. East scored his third goal of the game, giving the senior captain his third career hat trick, while cutting Army’s lead to 10-8 with just under 10 minutes to play.
Once more, it was Thul who gave Army a three-goal lead, 11-8, as he and Cook connected for the former’s fifth tally of the day. With 6:41 left in the fourth quarter, Thul notched his game-leading sixth goal to push Army ahead 12-8.
Penalties hurt VMI late in the game as Van Krevel scored Army’s third extra man goal of the game. The tally put the Black Knight’s up 13-8 before Thul’s seventh goal of the day gave Army a six-goal buffer and a final score of 14-8.
The Keydets continue their road streak with game three of six on Tuesday night, but this time, the trip will be a short one. VMI will head to Charlottesville, Va. to take on University of Virginia, currently ranked No. 7 in the USILA Coaches’ Poll. Game time is set for 7 p.m. at Klöckner Stadium.