Navy’s top four scorers thus far are – no surprise – four starters on offense. But the team’s fifth-leading producer is a guy more accustomed to making plays on the defensive end of the field.
Junior long-stick midfielder Matt Rees is tied with senior attackman T.J. Hanzsche with three points on two goals and one assist. The 6-foot-5, 215-pound Sykesville resident and Boys’ Latin graduate registered one goal and one assist in a 12-11 double-overtime loss to No. 8 Johns Hopkins on Feb. 9 and added the second goal of his career in the No. 16 Midshipmen’s 5-1 win against Delaware on Sunday.
Coach Rick Sowell said Rees’ sudden display of offense isn’t stunning.
“That’s something we’ve worked on,” he said Thursday. “Matt’s talented, and we knew that was something that if he worked at it, he could be good at. [Defensemen] Chris Fennell and Jules Godino are two other guys who if they get the opportunity, they’re looking for it. But to their credit, they’re not playing selfish lacrosse looking to get shots off when they’re not there. That’s something we’ve spent a lot of time on in the offseason and seeing Matt score the way he has, it’s certainly helped. We think that’s going to be a part of our game throughout the rest of his career.”
Sowell said Rees reminds him of Steven Waldeck whom Sowell coached at Stony Brook and who finished his collegiate career in 2010 with 313 ground balls, 17 goals and 11 assists.
“He’s very similar,” Sowell said. “Steve could shoot the ball, too, and he was all about picking off passes and taking the ball away down on the defensive end. Very similar on ground balls, too, and tough as they come. Different styles, but certainly very similar in terms of their ability to make plays all over the field.”
Rees isn’t shirking his responsibilities on defense, where he leads Navy in caused turnovers (six) and ground balls (15). Sowell said the long-pole is valued for his versatility.
“He’s a playmaker,” Sowell said. “At the end of the day, that’s what it comes down to. Whether it’s on the defensive end or coming down in transition, he’s making plays. We talk to our guys about that an awful lot. You can have all of the strategy that you want, but you need guys that are going to make plays over and above strategy, and Matt is certainly one of those guys.”