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No letdown for Army men’s lax in win over Bucknell

Pardon Army men’s lacrosse players and coaches if they do a little bit of scoreboard watching today – just hours after the No. 12-ranked Black Knights, playing without injured star faceoff specialist Will Coletti, dismissed host Bucknell, 19-11, Friday night to run their overall record to 10-2. 

Army is locked in a furious battle for first place in the Patriot League with five other teams, each hoping to finish on top of the regular season standings. The two highest-seeded teams receive a bye in the six-team tournament, while the top seeded team gains the right to host both semifinal games and the championship game of the league’s post-season tournament. 

The league may need to hire an accountant to figure out the various scenarios among the top six squads as they enter the final week of regular season play next weekend. If more than two teams finish tied for any of the top six spots in league play, the goal differential between all the tied teams determines placements in the tournament. If only two teams are tied for a spot, the winner of the regular season game between them gains the higher seed.

Right now, Army, which clinched a postseason spot with its victory over the Bisons on Friday, is tied atop of the league standings with Loyola, which knocked off Navy on Friday night, at 5-2. Army visits Loyola next Friday night, with the winner almost assured of a first or second place seed in the playoffs. 

Today, three league teams with matching 4-2 records are all in action. Boston University visits Lehigh, while Colgate visits Holy Cross, which is winless in league play at 0-7. Next weekend, Boston University visits Colgate, while Lehigh meets Lafayette. Navy, now 5-3 in league play and also guaranteed a spot in the tournament, hosts Bucknell. 

“No, we are not scoreboard watching, but I am sure that many of us will still be watching the games,” said Army coach Joe Alberici. “The bottom line is that we know that if we win next Friday, we control our destiny to be a top two seed. Sure, it is nice to host the tournament, but getting that bye is the biggest thing and we are in a position to do so with a win over Loyola. We just need to get the win and that gives us the following Tuesday off with the bye and a spot in the semifinals.”

That will not be a cakewalk. Loyola has looked very good in the second half of the season. The Greyhounds started the year by upsetting Georgetown, but then lost six of its next seven games before winning five straight league games. “There is no question they are a very good team that is well coached and has a lot of talent and they are coming on strong,” noted Alberici. 

The big question is whether Army will have to go into that game without Coletti, a junior who was named the Patriot League’s faceoff specialist of the year last year and is touted by many as an All-American this season. Alberici said that Coletti has a lower back injury and there is no timetable for his return. 

“We hope he gets back for next week’s game,” he added. “We knew during the week that we were going to be without Will and that makes it tough because he ignites a lot of things. Rob Simone, who is just a freshman and playing for just the third time this year, and (junior) Alec Vaccaro did a great job for us at the X. We won 20 of 33 faceoffs, with Rob getting 12 groundballs and Alec scoring a goal for us in the first half.”

Simone, who hails from North Caldwell, N.J. and The Lawrenceville School, said that both he and Vaccaro were ready for the task of replacing Coletti. 

“Alec, Will and I work really well together in practice and we are a pretty confident group,” he said. “I felt a little nervous before my first faceoff but settled down really quicky and felt pretty good through the rest of the game. Alec played great and both of us were prepared for this and we got a lot of help from our teammates during the game.”

Senior Reese Burek led Army with five goals and one assist, while junior Jackson Eicher had four goals and two assists. Senior Jacob Morin had three goals. 

“Every year, one of the toughest games of the year for our program is the game after we face Navy,” Alberici said. “That game last week (a 13-8 Army win) was a tough and emotional game and we had to get right back out there and play another great game against strong Bucknell team. It did not help us that Bucknell was the seventh team in the standings and entered the game still with a chance to make the tournament.”

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