Lacrosse already? That’s right. Don’t look now, but Navy’s first scrimmage is this weekend against UMBC. Time to start getting ready. Inside Lacrosse has presented their 10 Burning Questions for ’08, and there’s plenty of Navy talk in there. Make sure you read up.
Not content to rely on Inside Lacrosse, a team of our favorite lacrosse experts came together for their own discussion of the upcoming season. Joining me in this roundtable is Pete Medhurst, the Voice of Navy Lacrosse (and a blogger himself); Joe Miller, Pete’s co-host on the Navy Football tailgate show and radio play-by-play voice for Johns Hopkins lacrosse; and Christian Swezey, writer of all things lacrosse for The Washington Post.
The Birddog: To me, this looks like a really interesting season coming up. Hopkins is bringing back that midfield, Duke players are getting an extra year, and I think this might be the year that someone other than Navy finally wins the Patriot League. What do you think? What questions do you have about this season?
Miller: It should be interesting, especially with most of the top guys returning for Duke. I’m already looking forward to the trip down to Durham for the Hopkins-Duke game on April 5th. My questions for the upcoming season would be, can Gvozden step right in and replace Jesse at Hopkins? For Virginia, how will the much talked about freshman class perform? Plus they have to replace their GK Turner, but they do return their entire attack unit. For Duke, I don’t know if there is much to wonder about. You know that they are extremely talented, but I thought last year their biggest question mark was their depth. It should improve this year. I understand they have had some injury concerns in fall ball but they should for the most part be ready to go. Really the question marks don’t start for Duke until May. Can they handle the pressure of making it to another championship game after losing two straight? For Navy, besides Mirabito and Daratsos who is going to score?But I would still put them as my Patriot League favorite. For Maryland, I’ve heard a lot of good things about their freshmen and they are going to need it. Young, Reed, and Catalino will have a lot of pressure on them to produce; will they? It seems like the general consensus from everyone leading up to the season is that Hopkins, Virginia, and Duke are the top three teams, and a bunch of other teams will battle it out for that 4th spot. But it hardly ever seems to play out that way.
Swezey: What strikes me about this year is how many top teams are going to be better than they were last year. Johns Hopkins won the national title last year and there’s no question they have a chance to be a lot better this year. I agree with Joe that Gvodzen in goal is a concern; my best guess is he will be much more consistent than Jesse Schwartzman, but will he play as well in the big games? Schwartzman was such a good goalie in the playoffs; I believe he lost only one playoff game in his three years as a starter.
Duke won’t be better this year initially; it had too many injuries to top players in the fall. But the Blue Devils will be fantastic by April and May. Coach John Danowski’s philosophy has always been to be good in March, great in April and at your best in May. So he won’t rush people back for early-season games.
Virginia will be so much better than last year, especially at midfield. And Georgetown has everyone back.
I don’t know what to make of Navy, and I doubt I’m alone. They have talent; the guys we have been hearing about behind the scenes for a couple years (Higgins, the youngest Lennon, etc.) have to show up on offense. I can’t see any player scoring more than 20-25 goals this year. What Navy needs is eight guys to score one or two goals each in every game.
The rest of the Patriot League is really good, no question. What makes it so interesting is that Bucknell and Colgate are heavy on offense and Army and Navy are heavy on defense. It should make for some amazing matchups. The Army-Navy game this year might finish 4-3.
The Birddog: It’s funny about Schwartzman… At the beginning of the year, Hop fans can’t wait for him to graduate. By the end of the year, they don’t know what they’ll do without him!
With Navy I think it’s a question of how many 7-6 type games they can win.
Miller: The Schwartzman storyline was prevalent all of last season; he struggled at times and Gvozden replaced him and played well in his brief appearance. But give credit to Coach Pietramala for sticking by Schwartzman, because he was absolutely fantastic in the 4th Quarter of the National Championship game. Gvozden was known as a pressure goalie in High School, a guy that would play his best at the most important time. Only time will tell how it does at the biggest stage.
I agree with Christian as far as some of the bigger teams maybe having improved during the off season. Don’t forget that Hopkins gets back Matt Dreenan; before he got hurt last season, he was everyone’s pick to have a break out season for the Jays. Dreenan returns with Michael Evans, who BTW you could make a case he should’ve been the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, he was that good down the stretch.
Navy seems destined to play a ton of close games this year; my question is how much will it hurt to lose John Tillman?
Medhurst: We know the commodities that are JHU, Duke, and Virginia.
The stock that everbody is waiting for to skyrocket is Georgetown. Yes, they return everyone. Yes, this group is mega-hyped. Can they produce the results on the field?Sometimes you need a go-to guy. JHU has it. Duke has it. Who will emerge for Georgetown as THE guy, when the going gets tough against the big boys, that will get them a goal?
Navy has toughened its out of conference schedule with the Cornell test. The question for Navy is, will they score enough goals? Defensively they are fine.
The Patriot League schedule has Navy playing Bucknell and Colgate within a four-day period. In the past Navy has had the depth to withstand this. By then, they will have played enough games to know if they have the same depth. They have the league’s best coach and leader, and until they get beaten, my money is in their camp. Bucknell and Colgate have shown some improvement in the regular season of late. Now they must prove they can take the next step in the post-season. The Bison have tons of returning fragile talent; fragile in that they have had more injuries than anyone in the country the last couple of seasons. If they stay healthy, they will be a major factor.
The Birddog: Navy has their own injury issues, too, now that Nechanicky is lost for the year again.
I’m sure everyone expected an adjustment period after Dingman left, but this is a whole different deal without Tillman. With Richie running the offense, how conservative will he be? How conservative will he have to be? Georgetown isn’t the only team looking for a go-to guy… Mirabito was the team’s leading scorer last year, but that was because of how he dished the ball as much as his goal-scoring.
Stan Ross is as good of a defensive coach as we’re going to find. Plenty of returning talent on defense, too.
So there you go. A BIG thanks to the panel for their time and effort. The UMBC scrimmage is Saturday afternoon in Annapolis. The Mids will scrimmage Virginia the following week before opening the season at home against VMI on 2/9.