Lafayette at Navy lacrosse: Three things to watch

Not only is Navy 14-1 all time against Lafayette, but the Midshipmen have never lost in nine home meetings with their Patriot League rival. Since a 15-8 loss to the Leopards on March 12, 2010, Navy has outscored Lafayette 50-33.

The Leopards (1-3, 1-1) are off to their worst start since 2007. After losing by eight goals in its season opener at Stony Brook, the team outlasted Colgate before losing to Army and Delaware by a combined five goals. An offense averaging just 7.5 goals per game is paced by junior attackman Brian Bock, who leads Lafayette in goals (seven), points (eight) and shots (22).

The Midshipmen (2-2, 1-1) snapped a four-game losing streak in the Patriot League with Saturday’s 21-12 walloping of Holy Cross. Senior attackman Sam Jones needs just two assists to become the seventh active player in Division I to compile 60 goals and 50 assists in a career. One player he would join in that group is teammate and senior attackman Tucker Hull, who has accumulated 66 goals and 51 assists.

Here are a few factors that could play a role in the outcome at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis at 7 p.m. Friday.

1) Keep the goals coming. The 21 goals Navy scored against the Crusaders were the program’s most since April 18, 2004, a 23-5 rout of Holy Cross. In each of the team’s two victories, the offense has scored at least 18 goals, but in each of their two losses, the Midshipmen have failed to score more than eight. Striking a balance is a priority for Navy and coach Rick Sowell. “We don’t expect to score 21 goals every game, but our offense is certainly capable of producing some goals, and we’re going to need that on Friday night,” he said, adding: "We’re coming off a good performance from Saturday, and we want to keep it going. So we’ve got to continue to focus on those little things and show up on Friday ready to play 60 minutes of good lacrosse.”

2) Figure out the Leopards' defense. Sophomore goalkeeper Ben Falcone made his first start of the season in Lafayette’s 9-6 loss to Delaware on Tuesday. It’s unclear why senior Jake Hyatt did not take his usual place, but if he’s healthy and eligible to play, he would seem to give the Leopards their best chance at winning. He ranks 10th in Division I with 12.7 saves per game, but the Midshipmen would do well to pay attention to Lafayette’s starting defense of seniors Mac Ahsler and Matt Evans and junior Brandon Doodian. “They play a style of defense where they bait you to take shots that aren’t high percentage,” Sowell said. “Of course, we want to do that on our defensive end with our goalie as well, but they’ve done a nice job so far. To give up just eight goals apiece to both Colgate and Army, that certainly tells me all I need to know. We understand it’s going to be a big challenge for us.”

3) Dominate the faceoff X. The Leopards’ inability to mount a consistent offense could have something to do with their woes on faceoffs. Sophomore Adam Broeckaert and freshman long-stick midfielder Erik Cannon have combined to win just 27.1 percent (23 of 85) of their draws and collect 21 ground balls. That would seem to bode well for Navy freshman Brady Dove, who has won 59.8 percent (55 of 92) and scooped up 26 ground balls. “You hope so, but faceoffs from game to game, you just never know,” Sowell said. “There could always be that one guy out there that has that move that just counters your go-to move and makes things hard on you. Hopefully, we’ll continue to have some success there, and not just Brady. Our wing men, [senior long-stick midfielder] Pat Kiernan, [senior long-stick midfielder] Ben Sampson, [senior midfielder] Austin Heneveld, [junior midfielder] Gabe Voumard, we certainly count on our wing play to help. That’s certainly an area that’s much improved this year so far, and hopefully, we can keep it going.”

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