WEST POINT, N.Y. –Despite getting 22 saves from senior netminder Kelly McMinn, the VMI lacrosse team fell to the US Military Academy 14-8 on Saturday afternoon at Michie Stadium. It was the second game in a row the Keydets have faced a service academy after taking on the Midshipmen of Navy last weekend.
In the cage for VMI (0-2) McMinn posted his second straight start with double-digit saves. His 22 stops rank him second for single-game saves and setting a new career high. The Mission Viejo, Calif. native has made 37 saves already this season, combined with his 15 stops last weekend at Navy.
Over the course of his career, McMinn has made 49 saves against Army, including 40 in the last two seasons combined. He carries a career 57.6 save percentage against the Black Knights, including a career best effort 61.1 on Saturday.
“Kelly did a great job making the saves we expect him to make. Our defense did a great job forcing lower percentage shots and gave Kelly the ability to make see the ball very well today,” said Keydet head coach Brian Anken, who is in his second year at VMI.
VMI’s offense production was led by a trio of players with three points each. Freshman Mike DeBlasio tallied two goals with one assist, while Chris Kitchen buried three goals. Keith Long dished out two assists and scored once, extending his point-scoring streak to 15 consecutive games.
Army, which received votes in both the USILA Coaches’ Poll and the Nike/Inside Lacrosse Media poll, was led by Conor Hayes, who posted six points on five goals and one assists. Garrett Thul and John Adair also had multi-goal games, Thul finishing with four goals and Adair with a pair.
After struggling to gain the offensive zone last weekend against Navy, the Keydets had a much better day in clearing, going 18-of-22 against Army. The Black Knights failed to gain the offensive zone on just one occasion, going 19-of-20 on the afternoon.
“I was happy at how much better we cleared the ball compared to last week and how we continue to get goals and assists from multiple sources,” said Anken.
At the face-off x, VMI’s Stephen Robarge, who tallied a goal as well, went 14-of-24, grabbing a game-high tying seven groundballs, marking the 11th straight game that Robarge has had at least a share of the game’s groundball lead.
Army jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead, scoring on the first face-off of the game, just 11 seconds in, and just over a minute later. But Long snapped a pass to Kitchen, who found the back of the net and cutting the Black Knight lead in half.
The Black Knights (2-1) rattled in another three goals to grab a 5-1 advantage before Anken used a timeout. Following the pause, Leonard finished his second goal of the season on a DeBlasio pass. Army would score once more to end the first quarter up 6-2.
Despite the score, McMinn made 10 saves in the first 15 minutes of the game, staring down 17 Army shots in the first quarter alone.
After Army scored its seventh goal of the afternoon, VMI answered with back-to-back goals, the first from Robarge, his first of the year, and the second from DeBlasio. Both goals were credited without an assist.
Army would find the back of the net once more to take an 8-4 advantage into the locker room.
The second half began much like the first half, with Army scoring just 11 seconds in, this time on a Hayes marker with Derek Slippery, Army’s face-off specialist, on the assist. Three minutes later, Army would score again, this time on Thul’s ninth of the year.
But VMI would rebound as Kitchen put away his first man-up goal of the game. VMI went on the extra man after Army’s Tim Henderson was sent off for slashing at the 10:43 mark of the third quarter.
Adair and Hayes would each tally one more goal before time expired on the third quarter, keeping Army’s lead to 12-5.
The two teams traded goals in the fourth quarter as Long sniped his goal midway through the period, getting an assist from Tyler Griffith. Army got one more goal from Thul with five and a half minutes left. DeBlasio notched his second goal of the day just 40 seconds later, giving Long his fourth helper of the season and second of the day.
Army got one last goal on the day with just over a minute left in the game as Pat Brennan put home his first of the year. But Keydets would get the final goal of the afternoon as Kitchen stuck his second man-up goal of the day with only seven ticks left on the clock following a Tom Dalton slashing penalty.
Kitchen has all three of VMI’s man-up goals this season, helping the Keydets score twice on five extra man opportunities in the game. The Keydet man-down unit allowed just one goal on four penalties.
VMI will have a short rest period before heading to Charlottesville, Va. to take on the defending national champion and top-ranked University of Virginia. The game, which will pit the commonwealth of Virginia’s only Division I programs against one another, is set for 7 p.m. at Klöckner Stadium.
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