Navy men's lacrosse is in a bad place these days.
No facet of the game is sound for the Midshipmen at the moment. The offense is stagnant, the defense is porous and the goaltending is suspect.
Head coach Rick Sowell is going deeper on the bench in search of answers and finding none.
Meanwhile, the season is steadily slipping away with the Mids in very real danger of not even qualifying for the Patriot League Tournament.
All-American attackman Patrick Spencer scored three goals and dished off four assists to lead No. 18 Loyola to an 18-7 dismantling of slumping Navy before an announced 1,307 at Ridley Athletic Complex.
Senior attackman Zack Sirico also scored three goals for the Greyhounds, who dominated possession and outshot the Mids 42-26. Sophomore midfielder Alex McGovern contributed three assists as Loyola (4-3, 3-0) remained unbeaten in the Patriot League.
"I'll start off by making a comment about how well Loyola played today," Navy head coach Rick Sowell said. "They controlled the faceoff part of the game and offensively they were very difficult to stop. They moved the ball extremely well and got some really good shots on our goalies. Today was a lot of Loyola."
Sophomore midfielder Drew Smiley and junior attackman David Little scored two goals apiece for the Midshipmen, who have lost three straight for the first time since 2014. Sophomore attackman Ryan Wade had a goal and two assists for Navy (2-6, 1-3), which is tied for last place in the Patriot League with Lafayette and Bucknell.
Navy was sloppy on offense, failing to connect on numerous passes en route to committing 10 turnovers. There were breakdowns on defense that left Loyola shooters wide open. The Mids committed six penalties and allowed three extra man goals.
Sowell pulled starting goalie Ryan Kern early in the second quarter after he allowed six goals and stopped just one shot. Junior Nick Ramsey came on and recorded six saves while giving up 12 goals. Sowell was asked if he went into the game planning to use Ramsey, a Crofton resident who saw the first significant action of his collegiate career.
"No, not at all. It was just 'We gotta get him out.' He just wasn't seeing the ball well," Sowell said of Kern. "We had no preconceived thought that Nick would be playing. We thought Ryan would play better, to be quite honest."
Even faceoffs, normally a Navy strength, were an issue on this day with Loyola's Graham Savio (15 of 22) out-dueling Brady Dove and Joe Varello.
Sowell nodded his head in agreement when asked about the difficulty of not having any area of the game clicking on all cylinders.
"You hit the nail on the head there. There's really no area that we can sink our teeth into and say we're playing really well here," Sowell said. "It's tough because one area helps all the other areas. If we're winning faceoffs, that helps everything. If we're playing well on offense that helps the defense and vice versa. If we're getting great goaltending that helps everything. Unfortunately, we're not playing well in any area."
Loyola closed the first half on a 7-2 run to take total control of the contest. It began with a goal by midfielder Brian Begley at the 9:04 mark of the first quarter and saw eight different players record a point.
Spencer was the catalyst, scoring a goal and assisting on three others. Sirico scored two goals during the run, which gave the Greyhounds an 8-3 halftime lead.
"I thought we had a lot more flow on the offensive end. We had some things we wanted to clean up because last week we weren't very smooth on the offensive end," said Spencer, a Davidsonville resident. "Defense made a lot of stops and we were able to get the ball out and get a lot of early offense. If we didn't get anything quickly, we settled in on the offensive end and ran some clean sets."
Loyola long stick midfielder Zach Davliakos covered Navy standout midfielder Greyson Torain most of the game and limited him to just one assist. The Kent Island resident and Severn School graduated also scored a goal in transition. Torain, a Glen Burnie resident, only took three shots.
"We talked about it being a team effort against Torain. It was not a situation when we could put our pole on him and look away," Loyola head coach Charley Toomey said. "I thought the guys slid early too him and did a good job of making him move it on."
Navy will host Dartmouth (1-3) from the Ivy League on Tuesday night before returning to Patriot League play next Saturday versus Lehigh in Annapolis.
"For the season to unfold the way it has been going is definitely very frustrating and very disappointing. Especially when you put the tape on and see it's so close. Everything is one play away," Navy All-American defenseman Chris Fennell said. "The pieces are there for us to be successful. The most frustrating thing is not being able to put it all together on game day."
Spencer scored twice in the span of 53 seconds at the start of the third quarter to increase the Loyola lead to 10-3. Smiley scored twice as the Mids mounted a mini rally to cut the deficit to 11-6, but the Greyhounds closed the contest on a 7-1 run to turn it into a rout.
"I thought we played with a lot of energy today. We knew that because we drew fouls again. We really attacked Navy and just executed today," said Toomey, a Severna Park resident. "We forced some outside shots that enabled us to make some saves and allowed us to run."
Stover delivered some superb outlet passes and Loyola's defensive midfield accounted for three goals with Begley and Jared Mintzlaff joining Davliakos in finding the net.
"That's our identity. We want to be able to run," Toomey said. "In order to run, you need to either pick up a ground ball on the defensive end or make a clean save. We're at our best playing in those unsettled situations."
GOALS: N – Smiley 2, Little 2, Wade, Flounlacker, Wardell. L – Spencer 3, Sirico 3, Perkins 2, Dennis 2, McGovern, Mintzlaff, Drapeau, Duffy, Sherlock, Davliakos, Begley, Cunningham. ASSISTS: N – Wade 2, Torain, Burgoyne. L – Spencer 4, McGovern 3, Brown 2, Dennis 2, Germershausen 2, Drapeau, Sirico. SHOTS: N – 26. L – 42. SAVES: N – Kern 1, Ramsey 6. L – Stover 6, Limone 2. FACEOFFS: N – 11. L – 16. TURNOVERS: N – 11. L – 8.