The No. 11 Navy men’s lacrosse team’s 13-12 win at No. 12 Syracuse on Saturday was notable for the way it ended on senior faceoff specialist Joe Varello’s game-winning goal with 0.2 of a second left in regulation.
The offensive performance was also remarkable because senior midfielder Casey Rees sat out the entire second half because of a head injury. The Baltimore resident and Boys’ Latin graduate had opened his team’s scoring with a goal 2:24 into the first quarter, but left near the end of the second period after absorbing a hit from an Orange player.
Coach Rick Sowell said the outlook for Rees — who ranks fourth on the team in goals with 12 — looks promising.
“It’s day by day, but we’re encouraged with how he feels,” Sowell said Monday afternoon. “I have not seen Casey, but from talking to our trainer, he seems like he’s progressing.”
While some Midshipmen fans were up in arms over the absence of a penalty called immediately after the play, Sowell said further review of game film showed that the Syracuse player hit Rees with his shoulder and that the hit was not illegal.
That Navy (9-4) scored 13 goals without Rees and junior midfielder Drew Smiley (groin) and allowed freshman attackman Christian Daniel (strained right hamstring) to play on only two extra-man opportunities speaks to the offense’s depth. Freshman midfielder John Salcedo assisted on senior attackman Jack Ray’s goal that tied the score at 12-12 with nine seconds left in regulation.
The uncertainty over the availability of Daniel, Rees and Smiley for Friday night’s Patriot League tournament semifinal at Ridley Athletic Complex in Baltimore is worrisome, but Sowell said he can’t go down that rabbit hole.
“I’m sure we’re not the only team with bumps and bruises and some day-to-day injuries, and you’ve just got to deal with them,” he said. “We’ve got guys that are ready to step in. The other day, we had Christian for two extra-mans and Casey was out for the second half and Drew never even suited up, and we still scored 13 goals. So we’ll have to deal with it. Obviously, we would love to have those guys back. But I’m not going to bring them back if they’re not ready to play, and I’ll go by what our team doctor and trainers say. If it’s full-go, that’s great. If not, we’ll adjust to it and have some guys ready to go.”