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Sowell wastes no time in accepting job as Navy men's lacrosse coach

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Rick Sowell says that Navy contacted him about the vacant men's lacrosse head coaching job "about four or five days ago."

And after meeting with athletic director Chet Gladchuk and other school officials, visiting the campus in Annapolis, and touring the lacrosse facilities on Wednesday, Sowell needed less than 24 hours to agree to vacate his head coaching position at Stony Brook for the same post at Navy.

Sowell, who became the eighth coach in the program's 104-year history, said Thursday afternoon that he wasn't too surprised at the pace of his decision.

"With some conversations and meetings and a visit with a fair number of people yesterday, I was very excited about what those people had to say, and I felt a comfort level," he said. "Navy's always been one of those schools that you look at from afar and think, 'That would be a neat place to work at.' So when the opportunity presented itself and I felt good about what they were saying, things just happened and here we are."

Sowell succeeds Richie Meade, who compiled a 142-97 record with the Midshipmen, captured five Patriot League regular-season and tournament titles in six years, and qualified for the NCAA tournament seven times, including advancing to the championship final in 2004.

But the team failed to qualify for the postseason the past two seasons, and Sowell said he is fully aware of the expectations set by academy officials, alumni and supporters.

"Wherever I've gone, there's been pressure on me to produce, whether it's self-induced or what-have-you," he said. "Obviously, winning is important for a lot of programs, and there are a lot more resources being imported to our sport. That doesn't mean that it's win or be damned. It's not all about winning. But certainly, winning is important."

Army coach Joe Alberici, who worked with Sowell as assistant coaches on the U.S. national team that captured the gold medal at the 2010 World Championships in England, said he anticipates Sowell working quickly to turn the tide with the Midshipmen.

"So the first thing I would say is that he's a terrific person whom I think a lot of," Alberici said. "Like I said earlier, he's a great friend of mine and he's someone I have a lot of respect for. His teams are well-prepared, he does a very good job of recruiting, and he has had a history of reinvigorating programs. He's got a great track record in that respect."

The hiring ends a process during which the school attempted to woo Maryland coach John Tillman, a former Navy assistant who — in his first season with the Terps this past spring — guided them to their first NCAA tournament final since 1998.

But Tillman told The Baltimore Sun in an e-mail that he expressed to Gladchuk his intention to remain at College Park. "I'm very happy here at Maryland," Tillman wrote.

Another candidate targeted by the Midshipmen was Syracuse defensive coordinator Lelan Rogers, who has been a head coach at Division III Cortland and the Major League Lacrosse's Chicago Machine.

But Syracuse coach John Desko said Thursday morning that Rogers was staying put.

"It's great to have him back," Desko said of Rogers, whose defensive units have ranked in the top five in each of the past three years. "We felt [Navy] was a great opportunity and we certainly wouldn't try to hold him back, but we certainly have enjoyed having him."

In five seasons at Stony Brook, Sowell guided the Seawolves to a 47-26 record, America East regular-season championships the past two years and the conference tournament crown and an NCAA tournament appearance in the quarterfinals in 2010.

Sowell is 86-81 as a head coach after stays at Dartmouth and St. John's. In 2003, Dartmouth went 11-3 to capture the program's first Ivy League title and first trip to the NCAA tournament.

Sowell has established ties to Maryland. He was a two-time All-American and the Division III National Midfielder of the Year at Washington College, helping the Shoremen reach the title game in 1984 and 1985. He played five seasons with the Baltimore Thunder of Major Indoor Lacrosse League.

Sowell's coaching path began at Washington College, where was an assistant for two seasons. He then served three years as the head coach of the boys lacrosse program at St. Albans in Washington and nine years as an assistant coach at Georgetown before making the leap to head coach at Dartmouth for the 1999 season.

In a written statement, Gladchuk said he was moved by favorable impressions of Sowell from those who worked with him and against him.

"Now at Navy, he takes another step in the same direction training and preparing our midshipmen for their future role as leaders in the fleet," Gladchuk said. "We are looking forward to a tenure at Navy where Rick can provide ambitious direction to our program while reinforcing the values of the Academy that resonate with the Navy way."

The Annapolis Capital was the first to report that the academy could name Sowell as head coach as early as Thursday.

edward.lee@baltsun.com

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