Navy can fulfill three of its preseason goals – capturing at least a share of the Patriot League regular-season title, and the top seed and home-field advantage in the conference tournament – by defeating Army on Saturday.
Even a loss wouldn’t entirely eliminate the No. 10 Midshipmen (8-2 overall and 6-1 in the league) from satisfying those aims, but coach Rick Sowell knows it’s better to grab the crown rather than ask for help.
“We’re aware that we’re in the driver’s seat,” he said Wednesday afternoon. “Our first goal was to get into the Patriot League playoffs, and we accomplished that a couple of weeks ago. Then the challenge was, ‘OK, let’s take the next step. Let’s see if we can win the league and get a bye.’ The win against Colgate [on Saturday] put us a step further, and now we’re facing a really good Army team, and we do have an opportunity to control our own destiny.”
That Navy can accomplish its goals at the expense of the No. 20 and archrival Black Knights (8-3, 5-1) might seem like the perfect storyline. But Sowell is fully aware of the challenge Army will pose.
“They’re an awfully good team, and we know we’re going to have to play our best lacrosse to beat them,” he said. “So whatever implications there are, we’ve got to make sure that we’re ready to play. That’s what we’re focusing our attention on this week. We can’t control what’s outside the ring – whether that’s the media attention or other things. We’re going to focus on what we need to do to make sure that we’re ready to play.”
The Midshipmen are riding a six-game winning streak, the program’s longest since 2008. While appreciative of the team’s run, Sowell acknowledged that there’s also a concern.
“In some ways, it also makes you a little paranoid as coaches because you want to make sure that you’re continuing to work hard and do the things that you need to do to make sure there aren’t any lapses,” he said. “You don’t want human nature to settle in and have this sense of, ‘Man, this is easy. We’re just going to show up and win.’ That’s certainly not the case. The guys have been really good not letting that creep into their psyche. Winning can’t help but make you feel good and make you feel confident. We’ve just got to make sure that we don’t get too overconfident because that’s when not-so-good things happen.”