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As a chorus of doubt regarding Rick Sowell as a suitable fit as Navy's coach began to get louder, he frequently preached patience and reassured anyone who would listen that the lacrosse program would reverse a course that saw the Midshipmen go a combined 13-26 overall and 7-12 in the Patriot League in his first three years.

So in what he later called "a season of breakthroughs," the 2015 team went 9-5, captured a share of the conference's regular-season championship, earning the top seed and right to host the Patriot League tournament.

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Navy's nine victories were its most since the 2009 squad won 11 times, and the team completed its first winning conference record (6-2) since 2010. After going 2-7 in one-goal games in Sowell's first three seasons, Navy won five of six contests by that margin this past spring.

So given a chance to fire back at his critics, Sowell took the high road when asked if the success in 2015 was especially gratifying for him.

"I say yes, but I don't look at it from the standpoint of the scrutiny I've been going through," he said. "I just look at it from the competitive side. I took over the program, and I knew it would take a few years to get things going in the direction that we all wanted it to.

"We certainly went through some adjustment pains, some transition pains. But any gratification that I'm getting from the success that we had this spring comes from knowing that we put in the lot of work – the staff and I and the team – and we were able to get some reward for our efforts."

Sowell reserved his elation for the program's eight seniors, who had endured the same win-loss record as their coach. The Midshipmen were unable to send that group out with a Patriot League title or a berth in the NCAA tournament, but Sowell said the seniors inspired their younger teammates.

"Very gratifying, certainly for the seniors, who put in a lot of work throughout their careers here," he said. "We felt last year we had made significant progress, but unfortunately, it didn't show in the results. We saw things improving and this year, with the help of our senior leadership and the influx of some talented players in that freshman class, allowed us to get over the hump and win those one-goal games and beat some ranked teams."

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