Review & preview: Navy
Here’s the fifth installment of a new series that checks in with the seven Division I programs in the state to give a glimpse into the past and the future. Today, we take a spin with Navy.
The good: Defense has been a fixture with the Midshipmen, and this season was no different. The unit finished seventh in the country in goals allowed per game (7.7) despite the loss of sophomore Michael Hirsch to a torn anterior cruciate ligament, and personnel changes, including in the net. The defense was even better in man-down situations, killing 85 percent of opponents’ extra-man opportunities. ... The starting attack of juniors Tim Paul and Brendan Connors and sophomore Andy Warner and junior midfielders Patrick Moran and Joe Lennon powered the offense as each player scored at least 13 goals. The promising thing is that 10 of the team’s top 12 point producers will be back next season. "The last couple years, we’ve been pretty young offensively," coach Richie Meade said. "I think on the offensive side of the field, we’re adding some guys that we think are going to be very good players. That’s going to give us depth."
The bad: As prolific as Navy’s starting attack and midfield were, those two lines were weighted down by the inability to find a productive second midfield line. "We didn’t feel like we got a lot out of the second midfield in terms of their offensive production," Meade said. "We need to get 15, 20 goals out of that group, and we got nine. I think we’re going to be in a position where we get more production out of that second group." ... Meade said he chuckles when he hears outsiders say that the Midshipmen like to slow down the pace of the game. He counters that the team pushes as hard as any other team in transition, but the big problem was that the players misfired on shots. "The weakness of our team this year was on the offensive end in terms of goal production, and a lot of that had to do with not shooting the ball real well," Meade said. "We didn’t finish our opportunities, and I think that hurt us in a lot of games.
Personnel changes: The biggest voids are on defense, where Navy must fill the void created by the graduation of a pair of starters in defenseman Andy Tormey and goalkeeper Tommy Phelan. If sophomore Michael Hirsch can recover from a torn anterior cruciate ligament, he will likely join freshman Matt Vernam and sophomore Tom Mansfield. But junior Jaren Woeppel could make the move from long-stick midfielder to close defense. "That’s something we’ve considered," Meade said. "That may happen." ... Freshman R.J. Wickham made six starts this past season, registering a 7.00 goals-against average and a .500 save percentage. But Meade said sophomores Michael Haas and Alex Samaniego, junior Ward Odenwald and incoming 6-foot-7 freshman Nolan Hickey are expected to compete for the same position. "R.J. certainly has the inside scoop right now because he played well when he had the opportunity," he said. "But we’re going to take a hard look at these other guys, and I’m confident that position will be strong." ... Two guys who will be missed are short-stick defensive midfielders Geoff Leone and Bobby Lennon. Junior Joe McAuliffe and sophomore Marty Gallagher are slated to replace Leone and Lennon with juniors Stephen Driscoll and Anthony Arena and freshman Brian Brinkmann also getting into the mix.
Outlook for 2010: Encouraging. The offense is intact and should be productive enough to give the defense time to gel and find its footing. The key will be the development of Wickham, who must be the backbone of the defense and live up to the potential he displayed in high school. Patriot League rivals Colgate and Bucknell lost a lot of talent to graduation, and Meade is excited about an incoming freshman class that was ranked No. 8 by Insidelacrosse.com in 2008.