Navy men's lacrosse coach Rick Sowell understands why Patriot League play begins in February

There are a number of intriguing storylines surrounding conferences like the Atlantic Coast Conference (all six teams are ranked in The Sun’s top 11), the Big East (Denver joined the league) and the Colonial Athletic Association (No. 14 Penn State is banned from the conference tournament).

But the Patriot League is getting a jump on its peers by opening play on Saturday. Every team but Army will tangle with each other this weekend. (The Black Knights will take on Furman on Saturday.)

Locally, No. 13 Loyola (1-1) visits Holy Cross (0-1) and Navy (1-1) travels to Bucknell (1-1). Playing conference games on the fourth Saturday of February might seem strange, but Midshipmen coach Rick Sowell said he understands.

“Ideally, would we prefer to be playing Bucknell a little later? Probably, but it is what it is,” he said Tuesday. “We have nine teams in our conference. So that’s eight Saturdays that are going to be taken up playing against conference teams. And we do play our conference tournament earlier than most other conferences. So that takes another weekend. It is what it is. We do have two games under our belt, and they have two games under their belt. So the fact that we’re playing a league game on Feb. 22, that’s just the way it is. We’re going to prepare this week and go up and hopefully play our best lacrosse game of the year so far and come out with a victory.”

Both Navy and the Bison are trying to rebound from losses. The Midshipmen dropped a 9-8 overtime decision to Georgetown, and Bucknell absorbed a 12-9 setback to No. 20 Bryant.

Sowell said he expects a motivated Bison squad on Saturday.

“I think they understand that it’s a league game,” he said. “I’m sure that because they’re at home, that gives them a little juice. So they’re going to be good whether they won the game or lost the game. They’re an awfully good team and we’re certainly going to have our hands full. We’re going to have to play a very, very good all-around lacrosse game in all phases – offensively, defensively, special teams. We’re going to have to play at a high level for 60 minutes and then some to get the win.”

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