When Navy opens the season this Saturday against VMI at noon at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, the team will be represented by some familiar household names like long-stick midfielder Pat Kiernan and attackmen Sam Jones and Tucker Hull. The squad will also feature some fresh faces.
At least four freshmen are expected to start for the Midshipmen and a few others could contribute, too. It might seem like an alarmingly high number of rookies for a program that requires discipline and execution to run its schemes on offense and defense, but coach Rick Sowell sounded confident Monday about the freshmen’s ability to perform under fire.
"They’ve handled it well so far against some quality opponents in the fall and in the preseason,” he said. “But it is different going from the fall scrimmages to the preseason scrimmages to an actual game. I don’t care who you’re playing. It’s different from a scrimmage. So we’ll have to deal with those emotions and not just from the plebes, but also from some of the other young men looking to step in and play for the first time. Maybe they’ve been in the program for a year or two years and now they’re playing a more prominent role. … I’m going to count on my seniors because we have a fair amount of them that have played – some of them from their freshman and sophomore seasons. So we’re going to lean on their experience to lead the way.”
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According to Sowell, freshmen Matt Rees (Boys’ Latin) and Chris Fennell are slated to join senior Nik Mullen as starting defensemen. Rookie Brady Dove is poised to take the opening faceoff, and freshman John Trainor is expected to pair up with junior Alex Heyward as the starting short-stick defensive midfielders.
Rees and Fennell may have the toughest tasks, but they have particularly stood out to Sowell.
“Both of those guys have been quite impressive – really since they got here back in the fall,” he said. “They’ve just showed great poise and just seem to be ahead of their time. They just make good plays, and we think they have a very bright future here at Navy lacrosse.”
As promising as that foursome is, they are rookies to the collegiate game, and Sowell said he is prepared to accept some youthful mistakes on the field against the Keydets.
“They’re awfully talented, but obviously, they lack the experience,” he said. “So I’m sure we’re going to go through some growing pains with them, but hopefully, they’ll be short and they can overcome any inexperience to play the way they’re capable of playing.”