Navy eager to test itself vs. No. 18 Fairfield

Navy has opened the season with back-to-back victories for the first time since 2009 and has outscored VMI and Deroit by a combined 31-14. But coach Rick Sowell knows that Tuesday afternoon’s visit with No. 18 Fairfield will be a more accurate gauge of the Midshipmen’s progress thus far.

The Stags won a program-record 12 games last season and is widely viewed as as dark horse candidate to get past No. 1 Loyola and No. 11 Denver for the Eastern College Athletic Conference title.

“Absolutely,” Sowell said Monday night when asked if Tuesday’s contest is the biggest of Navy’s season. “… They’re a program coming off, I believe, the most successful season in the history of their program, and so they have a lot of confidence in themselves. I have a ton of respect for coach [Andy] Copelan. I think he’s one of the bright young coaches in our sport. We’ll certainly have our hands full tomorrow afternoon. But we’re looking forward to the opportunity to see how good we are at this point in the season.”

For all of the Midshipmen’s successes, Sowell knows there are several areas that need work. The team has failed on four clears in each of its games and has committed 42 turnovers.

“We’re certainly not playing to the best of our ability,” he said. “… There’s a number of things we can improve upon, and first and foremost is taking better care of the ball. We have turned the ball over way, way, way too much for my liking. We’re fortunate that we were still able to overcome them and be successful. We scored 11 goals. We were thinking that maybe a year ago, we’d lose a game like we played the other day. … We feel as though we have a lot of room for improvement, and hopefully [today], we’ll take the next step and clean some of the things up that we didn’t do well Friday night. Hopefully, that will be enough to allow us to be successful.”

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