The Navy men's lacrosse team appears to have put its early-season struggles behind and is poised to make a run in the Patriot League Tournament.
With a 10-6 victory against Army April 15, the Midshipmen clinched a spot in the six-team Patriot League Tournament, which begins April 25. Navy has a bye to prepare for the tournament and will await the final results of games played April 21 to find who and where it will play in the quarterfinals.
Regardless of Navy's opponent in the tournament, head coach Rick Sowell is proud of the way his team responded to early adversity. The Mids lost six of their opening eight games and were in danger of having their entire season unravel. But Navy won four of its final five matchups, gaining momentum heading into the postseason.
"We're on a roll," Sowell said. "This is a great opportunity for us to exhale and get ready for the playoffs. We're playing well, and we're confident. So, we'll looking forward to it."
The win against Army was especially sweet. The Mids scored seven consecutive goals during the final 16 minutes of the game to erase a three-goal deficit. With the victory, the Mids also clinched the Army-Navy Star Series for the 19th time in the past 21 years.
The game was also played in front of an announced 12,705 -- the 10th-largest crowd to see a regular-season Midshipmen men's lacrosse game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
"This was a great win for a team who has dealt with a lot of adversity throughout the year," Sowell said. "We're not the first and not the last to face some adversity, but I'm proud of the way the team has responded. We've been down at times, but the guys have stayed the course. To get a win for the seniors, for them to go 3-0 in their last three Star Games, is great."
The key for Navy throughout its successful final stretch of the regular season was staying patient and capitalizing when opportunities presented themselves, according to sophomore attackman Ryan Wade. The Mids have scored 10 or more goals in four of the past five games, while allowing an average of seven goals during that stretch.
Wade has been key, recording 12 goals and 24 assists for a team-high 36 points.
"Sometimes, we get too antsy," Wade said. "We just need to focus on getting through it and making plays. That's what it comes down to."
Patriot League Standings:
Boston University (4-3)
Holy Cross (4-3)
Game of the Week
Loyola at No. 11 Army, 7 p.m. April 21
The winner of this game will host the Patriot League semifinals and championship game as the top seed. Once again, the Greyhounds (7-5) will look to play up-tempo and force the Black Knights to keep pace. Loyola is averaging 12.83 goals per game this season, ranked 11th in NCAA Division I lacrosse. Sophomore attackman Pat Spencer (Boys' Latin) has led that charge, recording two or more points in all but one of his 30 games to start his collegiate career. Senior midfielder Graham Savio has helped the Greyhounds maintain possession by winning 168-of-282 faceoffs this year. Savio is ranked 12th nationally with a 59.6 faceoff winning percentage. His 7.25 ground balls per game ranks 10th. Loyola fell out of the national rankings this week with a 12-11 loss to Boston University April 15.
The Black Knights (10-2) had their nine-game winning streak snapped April 15 against archrival Navy. Still, Army controls its own destiny for the top spot in the Patriot League. The Black Knights are led by Washington state native Cole Johnson, who has scored at least a point in 47 games.