Navy hasn't won the Patriot League regular season title since 2008, hasn't captured the league's tournament crown since 2009 and hasn't qualified for the conference's four-team tourney since 2010.
Those results probably contributed to the Midshipmen being ranked fifth in the Patriot League's preseason men's lacrosse poll, which was released Wednesday morning. It's quite a departure for a program that had shared or won outright the regular season title in the conference's first five years and captured five of the first six tournament championships.
But Navy coach Rick Sowell isn't dwelling on the ranking. Without making a comparison to the current Midshipmen squad, Sowell pointed out that the Notre Dame football team was left out of the Associated Press Top 25 poll in the preseason before ending the 2012 season at No. 1.
"Whether I'm the preseason-ranked No. 1 or the preseason-ranked wherever, you just can't get too caught up in that because our sport now, there's so much parity, and I think there's a fine line between [No.] 1 and [No.] 7 [in the league]," Sowell said during a Patriot League conference call. "I think our whole league is better than it's ever been, and we're trying to prepare our guys mentally not just for our league, but every game we play. We've got to go in and be on top of our game, and if we do, we feel like we'll have a chance to win. If we don't, there's a good chance we could lose. That's our mindframe, and I just think with the parity we have, if you don't have that mindset, then you might find yourself on the wrong end of the results."
Lehigh and Colgate – two schools that qualified for the NCAA tournament last spring – are ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in the conference's preseason poll, and Army and Bucknell are Nos. 3 and 4. Sowell wouldn't declare his team as one of the top four in the league, but he said he's excited about what he has seen.
"I'll tell you that I feel very good about my team," he said. "I feel real good. I think we're doing all the things that as a head coach, you're excited about. Our work ethic is off the charts. We've had a number of guys that have made significant improvement from a year ago, and I think a lot of that has to do with the coaching staff being here for a year or two now and they have a better understanding of the expectations, my philosophy. … So we're hoping that's going to put us in a position to be successful, but I can tell you that I do feel good about our team. Whether we have enough talent and whether we stay healthy and show up on game day and play at a high level consistently, we're trying to get to a certain level and we want to play at that level game in and game out. Right now, we're doing all those things that I feel you need to do, and we'll see how it plays out in the next couple months."