Navy's offense ran smoothly in its men's lacrosse season opener against Virginia Military Institute last Saturday. The Midshipmen showed good spacing and ball movement in scoring 18 goals with 11 different players finding the back of the net.
However, the Midshipmen spent the entire game operating against a zone defense and primarily employed their extra-man offense to crack it.
Head coach Rick Sowell is curious if his troops will execute as well on Saturday against Georgetown, which has typically employed an aggressive man-to-man defense that extends to harass ball-handlers and challenge passes.
"We showed signs of being the type of offense we want and need to be, but Georgetown has big, strong defensemen," Sowell said. "We need to prove we can run effective offense against more pressure."
Navy committed 17 turnovers and was limited to just four goals in each half in suffering a 9-8 overtime loss to Georgetown last season. Sowell said without hesitation that taking care of the ball will be critical to changing that result.
Freshman face-off specialist Brady Dove was a pleasant surprise in the season opener, winning 15 of 21 draws to help Navy dominate possession against VMI. The powerfully built 5-foot-10, 192-pound product of Kent Island High could prove to be a big help to the Midshipmen, who haven't won more than 47 percent of their faceoffs since 2009.
"I certainly hope so," Sowell said when asked if he thought Dove could continue to dominate draws the way he did versus VMI. "Brady looks to be a solid face-off man, but we'll have to see how he does against different styles."
Dove will get a stiff test on Saturday when he goes against Georgetown's Tyler Knarr, who won 62 percent of faceoffs (112 of 184) last season while using a long stick. Knarr played a big role in the 2013 victory over Navy, capturing 13 of 19 draws that day.
Sophomore goalkeeper John Connors and the rest of the Navy defense enjoyed a relatively easy afternoon against VMI. The Keydets got off 23 shots with Connors recording seven saves and three goals allowed. Backup Paul Zimmerman played the final eight minutes and gave up two goals while making one save.
"VMI had a limited number of possessions and some of those were quite quick, so the jury is still out on our defense," Sowell said. "We have not been tested to the degree we will be on Saturday."
Junior midfielder Charlie McCormick scored three goals while junior Anthony Heaton and freshman Peter Conley netted two apiece as Georgetown defeated Mount St. Mary's, 10-4, on Wednesday.
"Georgetown is well-coached and it looks like they have a lot of good athletes running around," Sowell said. "This has always been a very competitive game and I expect more of the same on Saturday."
Navy's last seven games against Georgetown have been decided by two goals or less, with three of those going to overtime. The Midshipmen have dropped eight of the last nine meetings with the Hoyas. Sowell is hoping this will be a turnaround campaign for the Mids, who finished 3-10 in 2013, and he admitted it would be a real confidence boost to turn the tables on the Hoyas.
"It would definitely be nice to avenge one of our toughest losses from last year. But whether we win or lose this one we have to remember that we are only two games into the season," said Sowell, who was an assistant at Georgetown from 1990-98 under former head coach Dave Urick.
The winner of Saturday's game will be presented the Scott Boyle Memorial Trophy. Boyle, a longtime lacrosse official, suffered a heart attack and died while working the Navy-Georgetown game on April 2, 2005.