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Navy at Johns Hopkins: Three things to watch

Navy (4-8) limps into this annual contest on a four-game losing skid and in danger of absorbing the most losses in a single season under coach Richie Meade. On the flipside, Johns Hopkins (9-2) is enjoying a four-game winning streak and will likely be eager to avenge last year’s 9-8 overtime loss to the Midshipmen that snapped a 36-game losing streak to the Blue Jays. Here are a few factors that could influence the outcome at Homewood Field in Baltimore on Saturday.

1) Track the ball. Senior attackman Chris Boland is generally regarded as the quarterback of the Blue Jays offense, but several players on that side can initiate the action. Sophomore attackman Zach Palmer leads the team in assists (16), sophomore midfielder John Ranagan and Boland each have more than 10 helpers, and sophomore midfielder John Greeley (9) and senior attackman Kyle Ranagan (6) aren’t too far behind. “One of the other things that impresses me is they all play from different places,” Navy coach Richie Meade said. “You can’t say this guy is always on the crease or this guy is always behind. They do a good job of interchanging. … They’re pretty scripted, and they have certain things they like to do. But after that, they’re pretty good at finding each other and using their skills. So I don’t think you can say that you have to focus on Boland. He might be considered the quarterback, but you’ve got to be able to defend the rest of them.”

2) Prepare for the unknown. With seemingly little left to play for, the Midshipmen could throw caution to the wind and revamp its personnel and schemes. Although Meade said the objective is to win the game, Johns Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala said he is gearing for a different Navy squad. “We have to prepare for a lot of different things,” he said. “Because there’s no postseason, will they play some different people? Will they play some different combinations? Will they play a little bit differently? Will they be aggressive or will they hold the ball? The fact that they’re playing young guys, I would think that they would want to continue to develop those young guys. But you’re just not certain about what you’re going to get in terms of schemes. So you have to prepare for a little bit of the unknown, but I do know we’re going to get a motivated group.”

3) Keep chopping. The Midshipmen had some decent success against Army senior Tom Palesky, the 6-foot-4, 199-pound goalkeeper who surrendered seven goals in the first half. Navy not only must replicate their effort against the Blue Jays’ 6-3, 205-pound Pierce Bassett, but the offense have to be efficient throughout the game. “We certainly got enough shots to score more goals,” Meade said of the loss to the Black Knights. “That’s an encouraging thing. … We’ve got to take our time, and we’ve got to shoot a little bit better. Hopkins’ guy is very similar to Palesky. He’s a big guy and takes up the cage. So we’ve got to do a better job shooting.”

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