Freshman from Kent Island emerges as strong faceoff specialist for Navy men's lacrosse

Navy's Brady Dove, a freshman faceoff specialist from Kent Island, has already taken a record number of draws for the Mids this season.

Navy lacrosse player Brady Dove looks like a prototypical faceoff specialist. The Stevensville resident is short and squatty with a powerful lower body. The 5-foot-8, 200-pound plebe can squat lift 400 pounds and has a good understanding of leverage from many years as an interior offensive and defensive lineman in football.

"Brady is built like an ox. His legs are so strong that he just drives through the opponent's body," said Ryan Wellner, who coaches the Navy faceoff men. "He's got a low center of gravity and is so big and strong it is very difficult to move him off the ball."

If there has been one constant in Navy's up-and-down season, it has been Dove's solid work on the draws. The Kent Island High graduate is capturing 61 percent of faceoffs, single-handedly providing improvement in a critical department the Midshipmen have struggled with in recent seasons.

"Brady has probably been our most consistent player. Game-in and game-out, he has shown up and done his job pretty darn well," head coach Rick Sowell said. "I like that Brady is all business. He's a steady-Eddie type who doesn't say much and just works hard."

Just seven games into his collegiate career, Dove already ranks 14th on Navy's all-time list with 94 faceoff wins. He needed just five games to become the freshman record holder in that category, surpassing Arundel High product Mike Haertel (64 wins in 1997).

Dove has taken all but 11 draws and his 154 attempts are also the most in program history for a plebe. He is tied for 13th nationally in winning percentage and is 16th in ground balls per game (7.29).

"I think the thing that has been most impressive has been Brady's composure. For a freshman playing a position that is very important and is always under the spotlight, he has been very poised," Sowell said.

Dove's build is probably what prompted Kent Island Comets youth lacrosse coach Al Cantello Jr. to have the youngster face off even though he played on attack. That strategy continued at Kent Island High, where Dove was a three-time, first team All-Bayside Conference selection.

"I've always loved facing off. I like the one-on-one aspect and the fact it can turn a game so quickly," Dove said.

Dove dreamed of following in his grandfather's footsteps by attending the Naval Academy, but initially was not recruited. Prior to playing in the state semifinals as a senior, he took one last shot - sending Sowell an email suggesting the first-year head coach scout the game. Dove dominated the draws against Glenelg that night so Sowell decided to pull the trigger.

Up to that point, Dove had been planning to attend the Air Force Academy after spending a post-graduate year at the Kent School in Connecticut. That one of his former players wound up at the Naval Academy would have pleased Al Cantello Jr., who died as a result of a tragic boating accident in July, 2010. The Annapolis native was the son and namesake of Navy's longtime cross country coach.

"Coach Cantello always talked up the academy and would bring our (Kent Island) team to Navy lacrosse games," said Dove, a systems engineering major. "That I'm playing here now is a tribute to him more than anything."

Navy had an open competition to find a new faceoff specialist and Dove beat out sophomore Sean Reilly, whom Wellner said has become "a tremendous mentor to Brady." Dove also praised Reilly for "pushing me every day in practice" and doing a good job of mimicking the opposing faceoff man.

Dove was instrumental in Navy's victory over Lafayette, winning 12 of 17 draws while gobbling up a season-high 10 ground balls. He captured four consecutive faceoffs to help the Mids score four goals in the span of one minute, 11 seconds.

"Brady has done a good job of making it a 50-50 battle and giving our wings a chance to get in there and help out," Wellner said.

Naturally, Patriot League opponents have been able to scout Dove and come up with counter-attacks to his primary move. Lafayette was the first opponent to concede the draw and use a long stick defensive midfielder to try to harass Dove into a turnover.

"Brady is super coach-able and a real student of the game. He's a craftsman who works at his trade," said Wellner, noting that Dove reviews film of himself from the previous game on Tuesday then studies tape of the upcoming opponent on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

Dove, who was also a two-time All-Bayside Conference pick as a nose guard and center in football, may be classified as a FOGO (face off, get off), but has shown the skills to carry the ball into the offensive zone and make a play. He scored a goal against Virginia Military Institute and for the most part has made good decisions in terms of passing the ball after winning a faceoff outright.

"Brady has been able to get the ball off the ground, deal with a lot of pressure and get it into the hands of our offense," Sowell said.