Navy Lacrosse ended its 2018 season with an overtime loss to Lehigh in the Patriot League tournament semi-finals. It was a painful way to go out for a team that had been surging at the right time. Navy lost 15 seniors from last year’s squad including Patriot League Faceoff Specialist of the Year Joe Varello and fellow First Team All Patriot League Defender Mike Strack. Other notable losses include Second Team All Patriot League Defender DJ Plumer and team captain Jack Ray.
On the bright side, however, Navy welcomes back five starters from last year’s team that went 9-5 overall and 7-1 in the Patriot League. Notable returners include senior midfielders Greyson Torain and Ryan Wade (both received All Patriot League honors, First and Second team respectively.) Torain has started every game for the Mids over the last three years and brings back a wealth of experience and leadership to the team. Navy also welcomes back junior goalie, and Second Team All Patriot League member, Ryan Kern. Somehow overlooked on the team at times, watch out for sophomore Christian Daniel, last year’s fourth leading scorer with 21 goals and 10 assists.
Rick Sowell enters his eighth year as Head Coach for the Mids with an overall record of 48-49 and 31-23 in the Patriot League. The beginning of Sowell’s tenure was pretty forgettable accumulating 3 consecutive seasons of .500 or worse, but the program has since turned around, and the Mids have been one of the better teams in a strong conference over the last 4 years. Early indications are that trend will continue in 2019.
While Navy did not crack Inside Lacrosse’s Preseason Top 20, they were among teams receiving votes. The Mids were also named #3 in the Patriot League preseason coaches’ poll, and 2 Mids were named to the All Patriot League Team.
Navy’s strength of schedule is as strong as ever, although John’s Hopkins is still noticeably absent; but the programs are hopeful to renew their rivalry as soon as the 2020 season.
In the meantime, Navy isn’t looking to take the easy road. The Mids have 13 regular season games scheduled for the 2019 campaign, and while it’s nice to have 9 home games on the schedule, only Bucknell failed to crack the top 20 or receive any votes in the poll. So that is 8 matchups at Navy Marine Corps Memorial Stadium (NMCMS) against opponents who are either ranked, or are jockeying for position to crack the top 20. Not to mention the fact that #3 Maryland and #10 Syracuse will also be making visits to Annapolis. Navy’s only ranked road matchup comes against #4 Loyola, just up the road in Baltimore.
Navy begins the season with five straight home games; four of the next five matchups are on the road, before finishing the season with four straight games at NMCMS.
Navy has a chance to make a statement early on this season. Maryland and Princeton are both showing up to Annapolis early, giving the Mids an opportunity to stir the pot with some upsets with favorable conditions in their home environment.
Maryland was the Big Ten regular season champion in 2018 and all indications are they have only improved for this season. They will travel less than thirty minutes to Annapolis to face the Mids on Saturday 23 February. The Mids have not beaten the Terps since 2009. Rick Sowell will be looking to lead his team to their first victory over Maryland during his tenure at Navy. It’s not hyperbole to say that a win in February over Maryland could have post-season implications for Navy.
Loyola has been crushing it since they joined the Patriot League, and were the only team from the league to hand Navy a conference loss last season. The Greyhounds went on to win the league tournament; they made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament where they fell to eventual tournament champion Yale. The Mids will travel to Baltimore on Saturday 16 March, which will exactly mark the halfway point of the 2019 campaign. Loyola unanimously won the Patriot League preseason coaches’ poll #1 spot, while the Mids secured the #3 spot. This matchup could very well end up determining who plays host for the Patriot league tournament at the end of April.
Army will make the trip to Annapolis on Saturday April 13th. The Army-Navy lacrosse series has always been particularly tight, and that has not changed under Sowell’s leadership. During Sowell’s tenure the Mids are 4-5 against Army, but Navy has won 3 of the last 4 contests. Army sits just behind Navy on Inside Lacrosse’s preseason poll, and the Black Knights are #5 in the Patriot League preseason coaches’ poll. Army’s big advantage would be boasting the Patriot League preseason Defensive Player of the Year in Johnny Surdick. This matchup is always one of the year’s most anticipated between the two programs, and usually comes down to one or two goals. If you only get to see one Navy Lax game this season, make sure it’s this one.
Greyson Torain, Senior Midfielder
Torain has been a standout in the Navy program since his plebe year. He has started in every game since he was a Plebe (44) and has produced at least 1 point in 38 of those contests (4 of those 6 misses were his freshman year.) He has scored at least 30 points in each of the last 2 seasons. Having earned first team All Patriot League Honors each of the last two years, it’s safe to say the team’s success could rely heavily on the season Torain has.
Ryan Kern, Junior Goal Keeper
Kern earned second team All Patriot League honors at the end of last season, the first time he was recognized with All League honors. He has started every game in the net since he joined the team in 2017. He’s been quite a power house for the Mids and a huge part of their recent success. Last season, Kern was 14th nationally in Goals Against Average and 34th in save percentage. He has shown great progress over the last two seasons and if that trend continues the Mids will be in great shape on that end of the field.
Player to Watch
Nick Barry, Freshman FOGO
Navy lost the best faceoff specialist in the Patriot League from last season when Joe Varello graduated. Midshipman Fourth Class Nick Barry looks to take over the specialist position and he has his work cutout for him. Early indications are he is up for the task, but don’t be surprised if it takes him a few games to get comfortable in that role.
What to Expect:
We’ve already discussed the strength of Navy’s schedule, which makes it look like this will be a very challenging year for the Mids. Their progress as a squad over the last few seasons, as well as the senior campaign of the midfield duo of Torain and Wade, could indicate a special season is in store.
I expect the Mids to flirt with double digit wins in the regular season and make a run at the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2016.
In any event, with 9 home games, you have plenty of opportunities to catch the Mids in action this season if you are in the Annapolis area!