A few nights after Navy's 11-10 loss to No. 5 seed Brown in a NCAA tournament quarterfinal on May 21, coach Rick Sowell woke up in the middle of the night. Unable to fall asleep again, he walked into a nearby room and turned on the television, where he caught the fourth quarter of his team's setback.
Sowell watched the Midshipmen stay within striking distance of the Bears, but turned off the TV and returned to bed after sophomore midfielder Casey Rees' goal that pulled Navy within one with 1 minute, 59 seconds left in regulation.
"I turned it off as soon as we got to that point," Sowell said. "I said, 'No, I don't want to see that, I don't want to see the end.'"
Sowell has experienced the heartache associated with losses as the head coach at Dartmouth and Stony Brook before, but the wound from falling so agonizingly short of the program's first appearance on championship weekend since 2004 ran deep.
Asked when he will be able to watch the end of the setback to Brown, Sowell said he wasn't sure.
"I don't know. Probably not until the fall, to be honest. I won't watch it anytime soon because it stings now," he said. "… Watching the games on Saturday, it stung because you're sitting there thinking, 'Man, that could have been us! A play here, a play there.' But I told the guys right after the game, it does sting because of the finality of the season. I don't think people realize how that's a crash. You're on a high and then bam! Not only did you lose a game, but your season is over.
"It's an empty and a sad feeling to make it that far and then to realize that this team will never be together again, it really is a sad feeling. But as I told the team, we have so much to be proud of, and hopefully, we'll get through this and look back on the year and go, 'Wow, this was a heck of a ride!'"
Sowell said he has been encouraged by a large number of fans in and around Annapolis who have offered their compliments and condolences. He has also been peppered with different variations of the same question.
"I've had this asked a number of times over the last week," he said. "Would you rather just get beat soundly so that there's no playing the 'What-if' game or would you rather lose a close game? I'm going to lose that close game every time as agonizing as it is. As agonizing as it was – with a play here and a play there, you never know. You tend to think more positively."