Two games is a terribly small sample size to make any grand pronouncements. But Navy coach Rick Sowell is guardedly optimistic about the offense’s growth after the team scored 11 against Dartmouth on March 21 and 14 goals against Patriot League rival Lehigh on Saturday.
“To be honest with you, the guys are just playing a little bit better,” he said Thursday morning. “Some things we worked on in practice are starting to click. We’ve been seeing it in practice, but unfortunately, it’s been unable to translate onto the game field. So it’s been good to see it, and I think the confidence thing is starting to build.
"Things are coming together at the right time. We know we’re in the stretch of our season with three league games left, and we need to win games, and the more our offense can produce, the better are our chances to win games.”
It was just 12 days ago when the Midshipmen (4-6 overall and 2-3 in the conference) were hammered, 18-7, by Loyola Maryland. But Sowell argued that the offensive struggles were directly related to the Greyhounds dominating time of possession and keeping the ball from Navy.
On Saturday, the team was the beneficiary of a spectacular performance from junior attackman Dave Little, who scored nine goals on nine shots. Little, who earned Patriot League Offensive Player of the Week honors, sat out two games because of a hamstring injury, and Sowell said Little’s improving health is a bonus for the offense.
“He is shooting well and getting healthier,” he said. “If you had seen him shoot in practice last Thursday in a shooting drill with some of our better offensive guys, he put on a clinic. So I guess you could say that I saw it coming, but 9-for-9, that happens once every century. So it was hard to expect that his day was going to end up the way that it did.”
Little’s explosion partially obscured the return of junior attackman Jack Ray, who started for the first time after missing seven straight contests because of a foot ailment. The 6-foot-6, 261-pound Ray finished with zero goals on one shot, one ground ball, and two turnovers on Saturday, but Sowell said the most important result was that he did not suffer a setback and can fortify the offense.
“He’s another weapon that’s going to attract a lot of attention,” Sowell said of Ray, who recorded 26 goals and 12 assists last season. “… It just allows guys like [sophomore attackman] Ryan Wade, who instead of getting the No. 1 defenseman may get the second-best defenseman. So it helps him. The fact that he’s on the field helps [sophomore midfielder] Greyson Torain because now guys can’t focus on Greyson as much or can’t focus on [senior midfielder] Colin Flounlacker as much. He has an impact, and we obviously know what he’s capable of doing. So there’s a good feeling knowing that Jack is back, that our offense is going to be that much more difficult to stop or control.”