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Coletti, Army lacrosse overpower Wagner

Photo provided by Army West Point Athletics

Maybe, it was the lingering result of the big win versus highly-ranked Rutgers on Saturday. Or a rare mid-week game that took the team out of its normal routine. Or perhaps, even the fact that they are now nationally ranked (in two polls) and were actually playing too hard and too fast, that lead to too many errors.

Regardless, Army men’s lacrosse team found themselves not only trailing visiting Wagner on Tuesday but being outplayed by the Seahawks on a wet and cold day at Michie Stadium several minutes into the second quarter.

Fortunately, the Black Knights, thanks, in large part, to the outstanding faceoff abilities of sophomore Will Coletti, were able to shake off the celebrations of the Rutgers win, the mid-week game and trying to hard to refocus on Wagner. In the end, Army posted a solid 20-6 win at Michie Stadium to move to 2-1 on the season. Wagner is now 0-2.

Despite Coletti’s consistent heroics at the faceoff mark, the Black Knights trailed Wagner 5-3 early in the second quarter, mainly due to sloppy passing by Army, a tough Wagner zone defense that was hard to crack and some nifty saves by Wagner goal Danny Brady. But, just like that, the Black Knights went on a tear, including five goals in about three minutes to take an 8-5 lead, that turned a potential upset into an impressive victory for the now nationally-ranked (20th in one poll; 15th in another) Army squad.

“Actually, there are no excuses for how we played,” said Army coach Joe Alberici, minutes after the Black Knights notched their second straight win. “I just think we were a bit out of sorts early in the game and I think that Wagner came into the game excited and played aggressively. But, I was really impressed with how our players got their act together and put together a solid win against a very good team.”

Perhaps a quick talk from Alberici between quarters woke the Black Knights up in the second quarter. They certainly played better, utilizing a tighter man-to-man defense, better offensive playmaking and passing and an overall balanced offensive attack that saw 13 players tally goals in the contest and Army rattle off 15 straight goals from early in the second quarter to late in the fourth quarter, a mark Alberici said he does not remember any of his Army squads matching in his 18 years as head coach.

And, no one can forget Coletti, who won 20 of 23 faceoffs and collected 15 ground balls before
being pulled late in the third quarter with the game well in hand.

“Coletti is just a terrific player,” Alberici added. “He is certainly one of the best in the country at the faceoff and today that made all the difference in the world.”

Besides Coletti’s efforts, Alberici had to be pleased with the balanced effort by his players after the first stanza. For the third straight game, plebe Evan Plunkett, who scored three times, played a huge part in the team’s offensive performance. Army’s other big scorers so far this season, Paul Johnson, Jacob Morin and Reese Burek, each scored twice in the contest and were joined by junior Ryan Sellew and sophomore Ryan Sposito, who each tallied their first two goals of the season. Johnson added five assists as Army outshot Wagner, 41-16.

And, the Army defense was just as outstanding. The Black Knights did not allow a score from early in the second quarter until there was about five minutes left in the game and many second and third stringers were in the game. Starting Army goalie Knox Dent finished with eight saves before being pulled in the third quarter. Wagner’s goalie Danny Brady had an impressive 17 stops in the net.

On Saturday, Army plays one more non-league contest, against Mercer in Macon, Ga. at noon, before starting its Patriot League campaign.

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