Back in January, I said, “I think this might be the year that someone other than Navy finally wins the Patriot League.” Two months later, after Navy ran over Colgate to put themselves at 5-0 in the Patriot League heading into the Army game, I felt like an idiot; it looked like it would be business as usual in Patriot League lacrosse. Oh Lord how I wish I still felt like an idiot. Colgate beat Navy 12-9 in the semifinals of the Patriot League tournament, ending Navy’s season and punctuating a slide that began with a lackluster performance against Army. The Mids ended the season at 9-5.
Navy’s defense this year, except for a couple of slip-ups, was as solid as advertised. Both Matt Coughlin and Tommy Phelan were effective in goal. But what on earth happened to the offense? Talking with some dedicated followers of the program before the season, they all agreed that Richie Meade’s offense this year was going to be conservative. And conservative it was, seemingly placing greater value in posessing the ball than generating scoring opportunities. That was fine when the Mids were playing the first half of their schedule. When the tougher second half came around, it didn’t cut the mustard. The offense only scored 6.7 goals per game in the second half of the season, meaning Navy’s defense would have to play close to perfect in order for the team to have any shot at winning. The defense actually did achieve near-perfection in a few games. But if Navy’s opponent got out to a multi-goal lead, the offense couldn’t make up the difference, resorting to easily-saved desperation shots.
The question now is whether Coach Meade’s offense was conservative because he thought it had to be, or conservative because that’s just the way he does things. Part of the reason why so many people anticipated Navy’s offense would want to slow things down this year was because of how young it would be. With the graduation of Ian Dingman and Billy Looney, Navy lost 53 goals from its biggest inside-outside threats. Nick Mirabito was returning, but his supporting cast of Tim Paul, Patrick Moran, and Basil Daratsos were all sophomores. Seeing this, the Navy gameplan appeared to be to slow the game down and take pressure off of the young offense, with the thinking that in low-scoring games, the team with the best defense has an advantage. Maybe, maybe not. It didn’t work at the end of the year, anyway. But what about next year? Paul and Moran will both be juniors. Daratsos, who was nowhere near 100% recovered from his ACL injury, should be much closer to the form of his freshman campaign in which he scored 17 goals. Bruce Nechanicky should be back to quarterback the offense after his own ACL injury before the season. Is this enough for Coach Meade to decide to open the floodgates a little? We’ll see. Let’s hope so.