Saturday’s 9-6 loss to Patriot League rival Bucknell was an exercise in déjà vu for Navy coach Rick Sowell. For what seemed to be the umpteenth time, the team played well enough to win, but failed to execute when it mattered the most.

“We feel like we’ve been preparing well, but we’ve got to continue to tweak some things,” said Sowell, whose Midshipmen (1-2 overall and 0-1 in the conference) have dropped five consecutive Patriot League games and nine of their last 10 contests. “To use a golf analogy, if practice is the range and the game is the golf course, we’re hitting the ball well on the range, and now we’ve got to take it from the range to the golf course. We’ve got to take it from the practice field to the game field. We’ll keep chipping away at it, and one of these days, we feel like it’s going to transition and there’s no better time than this Saturday [vs. Holy Cross]. Hopefully, that will be the case.”

Navy is tied with Boston University, Colgate and Holy Cross at the bottom of the conference standings, but with the addition of Boston and Loyola, there will be more chances for the Midshipmen to move upward. That’s why Sowell is not putting too much weight on Saturday’s game against the Crusaders at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium at 11 a.m.

“We’re one game into our conference schedule,” he said. “Certainly, Saturday is a big game because it’s the next game, and we certainly would like to get a conference win, and we have an opportunity on Saturday. We’re not thinking outside of a good Holy Cross team coming here on Saturday. They haven’t won a game, we’ve won one, and neither of us has won a conference game. So they’re going to be focused and fired up to try to get their conference game as will we. We understand that we will have to play our best lacrosse so far this year, and right now, that’s all we’re focusing on.”

Navy’s five-game losing streak in the Patriot League began last year with the Crusaders, who tagged the Midshipmen with a 7-5 loss on March 17. Sowell didn’t dismiss the idea of the players using that setback as motivation, but he knows that emotions can be fleeting.  

“I talk to my players all the time about emotion and the game,” he said. “We understand that the game can be highly emotional, but that doesn’t win games. Execution does and intelligent play does. Those are the things we’re focusing on – playing the game with a little more intelligence in certain areas and ultimately executing and making more plays. Emotions will be tied into it, but there are some guys who don’t play well when there’s a lot of emotion involved. They need to be calmer and play under control. Some guys thrive on it, but that goes from player to player. So I think we have enough reasons to be fired up and excited to play on Saturday, but as I said, we’ve got to focus on playing smarter and ultimately executing.”