Navy looking for bigger gains from midfield

Navy’s offense returns its top two scorers from last year in junior attackmen Tucker Hull (23 goals and 24 assists) and Sam Jones (18, 13). After them, only one other player (attackman Taylor Reynolds who has since graduated) finished with more than 20 points.

That includes the midfield, a group that returns a pair of starters in junior Pat Durkin (13, 1) and senior Bryce Dabbs (9, 3). The midfielders will be counted on by coach Rick Sowell to be more effective in the upcoming campaign.

“We felt going into this year that we needed to be more productive, particularly from the midfield,” he said. “If you look at our midfield scoring from a year ago, we didn’t get a whole lot of point production from that position and given that we have most of our offensive players back – including the midfield – we think that’s an area that will be much improved this year.”

Durkin and Dabbs are competing with senior Jay Mann and sophomore Gabe Voumard for three starting spots, and Sowell said he has a simple criteria for deciding which ones will open the season opener against VMI on Feb. 9 as the starters.

“The ability to make plays and put the ball in the goal is really what it comes down to,” he said. “We have a four-man first unit at this time – [senior] Bryce Dabbs, [sophomore] Gabe Voumard, [junior] Pat Durkin and [senior] Jay Mann – and they all bring something different to the table. I think what they have in common is they can create their own shot. In our sport, you need people that can break down a defense and we feel as though all four of them – in their own way – can do that. We also feel that the combination of [junior attackmen] Tucker Hull, Sam Jones and Austin Heneveld and [freshman attackman] Patrick Keena, there’s a balance there. I think in the past couple years, Sam, Tucker and Taylor Reynolds, most of the point production was coming out of the attack position. We feel like those guys – Sam and Tucker now being juniors – are much improved from a year ago, and now that we have threats at the midfield position, we feel that our offense is capable of putting a lot of goals on board.”

Mann posted 11 goals and two assists in 2011, but shifted to short-stick defensive midfielder last season. Sowell said Mann has warranted a look at returning to the offensive side of the field.

“Back from defense to offense, but he’ll be playing defense as well,” Sowell said. “He might be the old-school midfielder who plays both sides of the ball.”

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