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Success of a bold battle plan

The national lacrosse championship may well have been decided by the Navy-Hopkins game. Navy said all along it would win—and it did

In a gesture ofgood, clean sportsmanship, circa 1907, Johns Hopkins University in Baltimoregave lacrosse lessons to its then friendly neighbor in nearby Annapolis, theU.S. Naval Academy. Playing its first game the following year Navy wasthoroughly thrashed 6-1—by Johns Hopkins. "They taught us everything theyknew—up to a fine, small point," a Navy lacrosse coach reflected the otherday.

Navy has notforgotten the slight and never overlooks a chance for settling—andre-settling—the old score. Last Saturday in Annapolis, before the biggest paidcrowd (14,100) ever to watch an intercollegiate lacrosse game, Navy added toits measure of revenge in a meeting of undefeated teams that may have settled anational championship, too. When the head-banging and shin-barking was over,Navy had beaten Hopkins 16-11.

What hurt Hopkinsthe most was the fact that had it won this game it would have been Hopkins thatwas headed for the national title. This would probably (and properly, they say)have put the championship in Baltimore, the GHQ of lacrosse. But that's howit's been for three years running; Hopkins no more than gets its foot in thechampionship door than Navy ungallantly slams it.

The pattern thatevolved in this year's episode of the neighborhood rumble came as no surpriseto Navy's tacticians. Even the score was closely estimated in advance by a Navycoach, who astutely predicted a 15-9 victory for the Midshipmen.

"We'llconcede the early goals to Hopkins and then swallow them whole in the secondhalf," said Assistant Coach Dick Corrigan. Corrigan's logic was based onsome demonstrable facts. He knew—and dearly appreciated—that Hopkins had HenryCiccarone and All-America Jerry Schmidt (SI, April 23), possibly the two finestcollege lacrosse players in the country. And, like Jason's warriors springingfull-grown from the dragon's teeth, virtually every man on the Hopkins team hadsprung from the lacrosse-fertile soil of Baltimore. Each of them had areputation for being in the right spot at the right time and for beingbreathtakingly adept at manipulating that unwieldy-looking instrument, thelacrosse stick.

But, though Navyhad no Schmidt and no longer a Ciccarone (he is a former Midshipman), it hadcapable players, and plenty of them, for every position. Hopkins' talent wasconsiderable but its ranks were thin, and Navy planned to win by the weight ofnumbers.

Accordingly, Navywas determined never to slow down, especially on defense. When a Hopkins manhad the ball, the Navy men had orders to run him until he got rid of it. If aNavy man got tired, he had only to show it and a fresh reservist would bedispatched to the front immediately. A certain risk was involved, because thisunusual lacrosse version of basketball's full-court-press defense occasionallywould let a Hopkins man get a clear shot at Navy's goal. But Navy was cockilyconfident it could make up any deficit once Hopkins' tongue was hanging. And,sure enough, it did.

Behind, but notunnerved

Controlling theface-offs from the very beginning ("That helped kill us right there,"Bob Scott, the Hopkins coach, said later), Navy scored twice in the first threeminutes—the second goal by blocky Midfielder Pete Taylor, Navy's highestlacrosse scorer this season, with 18 goals. (Significantly, it was Taylor'sonly point of the day, an index to the fine overall balance of the Navyattack.) But then, even as Corrigan had foreseen, Johns Hopkins' nimbleopportunists broke through Navy's swirling defense five straight times toscore. Despite this upsetting flurry, Navy stuck undaunted to its pressingtactics—and also came up with four more goals of its own while on offense. Atthe half the game was tied 6-6.

The second half,while still following the Navy's plan, looked like a different game. Hopkinswas tiring, but Navy, having digested half-time oranges, Cokes and pep talks,was as fresh as ever. Freshest of all was Arnold Glassner, a sort of lacrossegarbage man who specializes in collecting loose balls around the goal mouth andthrowing them home. Plying his trade, the midfielder scored three times in thespace of 50 seconds, once by flipping the ball offhandedly over his shoulder."That was our undoing, " Hopkins' Scott said afterward. "PhysicallyI think we were holding up a lot better than Navy had expected us to, but thenthat Glassner broke our spirit."

Not evenlucky

From then on,Hopkins abandoned its crisp, short passes and turned instead to the long anddesperate heaves that mark the throes of a losing team in several sports. Butby now Hopkins' luck, like its wind, was coming only in gasps. More often thannot, a Navy man was waiting downfield for the long Hopkins pass. Jerry Schmidtmight ordinarily have been clear to get such passes, but he was faced with theterrier tenacity of Navy Defense-man John Newton. Schmidt, with four goals, wasHopkins' high scorer, to be sure, but he made all of them while Newton was onthe sidelines.

Hopkins'Ciccarone, meanwhile, despite a Navy defense tactic created in his honor,played with his usual verve—he scored two goals and assisted on two more. SaidNavy's John Hewitt, a lacrosse midfielder who is better known as captain of thefootball team: "Ciccarone can be walking one second and gone the next."Ciccarone was flattened by a block at one point, for example, but withoutlosing the ball he got up, ran half the length of the field and whipped a fineshot past the dismayed Navy goalie for a score.

Such glimpses ofbrilliance were too infrequent under the oppressive blanket of Navy's steadypressure; the Midshipmen had taken charge of the proceedings early andimperiously directed the way the game was to go. Now virtually assured of atleast a tie for the national title, Navy will try to do the same thing again inits last two college games and take the championship all for itself. Only oneteam has any real chance to upset the plan. And, like Hopkins, it is anotherold enemy—Army.