No suspense remains for Navy's hopes of qualifying for its first NCAA tournament since 2009. The team must win three games in the Patriot League tournament, beginning with Tuesday's quarterfinal at Lehigh.
With a 4-8 record, the Midshipmen have no shot at an at-large bid, but coach Rick Sowell insisted that there is no talk about anything beyond Tuesday’s game.
“Right now, it’s Lehigh,” he said Monday afternoon. “You win, you advance. You lose, you go home. At this point, any conversation about winning three games, that just hasn’t come up. That’s not our focus at this point in time. We know we have a big challenge against Lehigh tomorrow, and that’s all we’re focusing our attention on at this point.”
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Navy is just three days removed from a disheartening 6-5 loss to No. 5 Johns Hopkins on Friday night -- the team’s third one-goal setback this season.
“Close one like this, it hurts a lot,” senior long-stick midfielder Pat Kiernan said in the aftermath of Friday’s outcome. “You’re right there, it’s an emotional game the whole time, and when it doesn’t come out your way, it cuts pretty deep. But at the same time, our team’s so hungry right now with these close [losses]. We’re just waiting to get after Lehigh. They’re a great team, but if this loss has done anything, it’s frustrated us. I know all the guys are thinking about Lehigh, and we want to play right now.”
Tuesday is a rematch of a March 15 game in which the Mountain Hawks cruised to a 13-2 victory. Lehigh (11-4) has gone 5-2 since then, while the Midshipmen are 1-4 over the same stretch.
But Sowell said he and his coaching staff have reviewed enough film to get a grasp on what the Mountain Hawks have done thus far.
“At this point in time, both teams are who we are,” he said. “Certainly, we haven’t played them since mid-March, but we’ve seen them. It’s not as if we don’t know who’s performing well for them or what kind of schemes they are or are not running. At this stage, they are who they are and we are who we are, and we’ll be prepared for them.”