ANNAPOLIS -- Basketball players say it's like tossing in jumpers through a giant hula hoop; running backs say it's like cutting into a hole as big as an intersection. It's called being in the "zone," and most athletes never get the feeling, but Navy lacrosse goalie Kevin Farrington has had it for the past two weeks.
"Some days it seems like a pingpong ball," Farrington said of an opponent's shot. "But sometimes you see it and it looks just like a beach ball when it's coming at you."
During Navy's recent three-game winning streak, Farrington has been deflecting beach balls, allowing just nine goals and recording 55 saves. His play has the No. 7 Midshipmen (8-3) on a roll going into tomorrow afternoon's game against No. 6 Johns Hopkins (4-3) at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
The play of Farrington, a graduate of Loyola High School, has come against some pretty impressive competition. Going against then No. 3 Towson State last week, Farrington had 16 saves and Navy won, 12-2. The two goals were the fewest by Towson State since an 8-2 loss to North Carolina in 1968. Two games before that Farrington had a school-record 27 saves in an 11-3 victory at Maryland. Maryland's three goals were the fewest by a Terrapin team since a 9-3 loss to Virginia in 1970.
"In terms of a player having a string of games as consistently as he has, I would have to say I've never seen anything like it," said Navy coach Bryan Matthews, who is seeking his 100th career win tomorrow. "We've seen Kevin have good games, but it's no JTC accident. Overall he's been very consistent."
Farrington says a team effort has given the Midshipmen their most wins since 1985, when the team finished 8-5 and made its last appearance in the NCAA Division I playoffs. This year's record comes despite an 0-2 start.
"The big difference now is that I'm playing pretty well and that both the offense and defense is playing well," Farrington said. "It's just all coming together at once for us."
Offensively, Navy has six players with at least 11 goals this season. On defense the Midshipmen have developed an aggressive style of play that has, for the most part, kept opponents from getting good shots.
And lately when they've gotten off good shots, Farrington has been spectacular. At 5 feet 8 and 150 pounds, he is far from imposing, but the junior has an uncanny ability to get his stick or his body in front of the ball.
"Size has never been a factor because I've always made up for it with my quickness," Farrington said. "A couple of times teams have come after me and tried to get physical. But I never let it bother me."
But he has at times paid the price. He's been playing lately with a sore shin, which forced him off the field twice during the Maryland game. But he has responded with several of his best performances of the season.
"I think Kevin is playing as well as anyone in lacrosse right now," said Dave Cottle, whose Loyola team scrimmaged Navy before the season. "He's seeing the ball well and he has great hands. You earn everything that you shoot against him. Everybody's playing better off of him right now."
Farrington, who was recruited by Hopkins and has several friends on the team, said he expects tomorrow's game to be close. The Blue Jays have lost three of their past four, but they also haven't lost to Navy since a 13-12 defeat in 1974.
"I'm sure people are starting to take notice of us and I'm sure Hopkins won't take us lightly because the coaching staff is top-notch," Farrington said. "They play with intelligence and they're used to playing against top competition."
But Farrington and his teammates have post-season play on their minds.
"All I'm thinking about is getting to the playoffs," Farrington said. "It would be like a dream come true for us."