Prior to Saturday’s Patriot League showdown with Holy Cross, sophomore attackman T.J. Hanzsche had scored at least one goal in Navy’s first three games. So while his six-goal outburst in a 21-12 pasting of the Crusaders may have been stunning to some, it wasn’t a surprise to coach Rick Sowell.
“He’s a sophomore, and he’s maturing,” Sowell said Tuesday afternoon. “He broke out in the Lafayette game a year ago [with three goals and one assist in first career start]. He’s a good player. I don’t want to say he’s undersized, but he’s a tough lefty. He’s worked hard during the offseason. … He’s been a scoring presence. He had three goals against Georgetown. He didn’t have as many shots as we would have liked against Bucknell, but I think he had seven shots the other day and scored on six of them. So he’s a good player that continues to get better and hopefully, the best is yet to come.”
After registering 10 goals and one assist last year, Hanzsche has posted 11 goals and one assist in the Midshipmen’s 2-2 overall start and 1-1 conference record. Sowell said Hanzsche’s progress has been a natural part of his growth from a freshman to a sophomore.
“I think if you ask most coaches, going from that freshman to that sophomore year, that’s when you make your biggest jump in improvement,” he said. “It’s knowing what to expect now – whether it’s from your coach, whether it’s from your surroundings, the competition the team is playing against. I think most coaches would tell you that the sophomore year, the player feels more of a comfort level, and that’s the biggest jump. That has been the case with T.J. as well as all of our sophomores. Over and above that, he works hard. He’s no different than all the guys.”
With Hanzsche starting on attack with seniors Sam Jones (12 goals and eight assists) and Tucker Hull (7, 4), the trio ranks 1-2-3 in points. Sowell didn’t dismiss the notion that starting the last eight games of 2013 helped Hanzsche build chemistry with Jones and Hull.
“They played together throughout practice, but there’s certainly nothing like game-time conditions and playing with your linemates,” Sowell said. “Certainly the more you play together, the more comfortable you’re going to become in understanding each other’s moves. It becomes more about body language, reading each other and knowing when the player is going to make a certain move and where you need to be. Obviously, they began to acquire that last year and it continued through the fall. There are still some things they continue to become more comfortable with. I suppose that will continue, but for the most part, they’re very comfortable playing with each other.”