Despite getting pulled from Sunday’s loss to Jacksonville, senior R.J. Wickham is still the starting goalkeeper for Navy.
After surrendering eight goals and making four saves in the first half of an eventual 13-7 loss to the Dolphins, Wickham was replaced by junior Nolan Hickey after halftime. But coach Rick Sowell said Wickham will make his customary start when No. 4 North Carolina (3-0) visits Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis on Saturday.
“R.J. is our starter,” Sowell said Wednesday. “I think R.J. understands that he needs to make saves, and he’s got a great attitude. We did have a conversation, and he’s a team player. He understands why I did what I did on Sunday, and certainly, it wasn’t all his fault. When we gave up those eight goals in the first half, you can certainly look to our defense and see that we broke down a number of times and we did not help out R.J. at all. Nolan had been practicing very well, and at that time, we were looking for a spark as we did with a couple other guys at attack, midfield, faceoffs. We were just looking for any kind of spark that we could. I think R.J. understands that he is the No. 1 guy at this point in time, and he’s going to continue to work hard, and we’re hopeful that he’s going to play well.”
Wickham, who has posted a 10.00 goals-against average and a .444 save percentage in two contests, hasn’t been the same player who registered an 8.55 goals-against average and .593 save percentage in 2010.
But Wickham’s last eye-opening performance occurred against the Tar Heels on Feb. 25 when he made 14 saves in a 10-8 loss.
Sowell is hopeful that history will repeat itself, but he stopped short of guaranteeing that Wickham would finish Saturday’s contest no matter what unfolds.
“I don’t know,” Sowell said. “I just haven’t given it much thought at this point in time. That’s not something I’m going to premeditate on. I’m going to assume that R.J. is going to play well on Saturday.”