Navy's big attack package

Lacrosse: Sophomore Ian Dingman has all the moves of a high-scoring attackman, plus a 6-foot-3, 250-pound presence.

March 27, 2004|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

Last season as a plebe, Ian Dingman led the Navy lacrosse team in scoring with 23 goals and 17 assists, with his 40 points ranking third on the academy's all-time freshman list behind All-Americans Mike Herger and Brendan Schneck.

And he wasn't even healthy.

After hobbling on painful ankles all spring, he underwent surgery that "cleared out some bone chips and shortened a ligament," Dingman said.

That was only the half of it. In midseason -- when he tied his career high with four goals, including the game-winner, against Stony Brook -- Dingman incurred a deep thigh bruise that discolored half his leg and bothered him for several more weeks.

"I did what I had to do to play," he said. "The ankles had just taken a beating over the years and gotten worn down. The bruise just filled the thigh and my leg down to the knee with blood."

Now that all the problems have been rectified, Dingman is doing even more damage to opposing defenses. Entering today's showdown against No. 11 Army in West Point, N.Y., the upstate New York native rates as one of the country's top scorers with 17 goals and 10 assists. He surpassed his career high with five goals as the Midshipmen, now ranked ninth, dismantled Colgate, 21-6, last weekend in Orlando, Fla.

Not bad for an imposing 6-foot-3, 250-pound physical specimen who looks as if he could be a football tackle, but has the agility and skills of a slippery attackman.

At a position that demands faking, dodging and quick releases, Dingman brings an extra dimension.

"Some guys are just big guys trying to learn lacrosse," said Navy coach Richie Meade. "He's a lacrosse player who happens to be a big guy. He's smart, distributes well, can control and shoot and knows when he's double-teamed. And he's very unselfish. Ian has a pretty complete game and uses all his assets."

Including his size, which can be an intimidating sight when he wants to ride an opponent or bull his way through him.

"It's easier for me to body up on defensemen than for a guy 5-10 and 180," said Dingman, a native of Deferiet, N.Y., and a graduate of Carthage High, which also produced lacrosse's famous Powell brothers. "It seems to some it may not be fair that I'm this big, but at the same time, it means I may draw extra attention.

"My size is just a new factor they have to defend against because they're used to small, quick guys. That works to my advantage."

Said Meade: "When he gets in the open field with the ball, it's going to take a pretty strong guy to stop him. He can definitely run through you if you're in the way."

Lacrosse comes naturally to Dingman, the youngest of three brothers.

The eldest, Lee (about 6-3, 220 pounds), scored four goals against Navy as a senior before he was graduated from West Point. He completed Ranger training and a few months ago returned from Iraq, where he served with the 101st Airborne.

The middle brother, Chris (about 6-1, 210 pounds), played four years at Navy and is now in the Marine Corps headed toward pilot training.

Ian could have chosen where he wanted to play, but, according to Meade, "he's from a very patriotic family. They view military service as almost a responsibility."

Why Navy instead of Army?

"I could have gone either way," Dingman said. "I just decided I'd rather be in the Navy."

Already 21, he attended two prep schools before enrolling at Annapolis and played at West Point, so the prospect of going there is not so daunting.

"Going up there won't be new, but it'll still be a good experience," he said.

The Army-Navy game will be a crucial one in Patriot League play with both undefeated. The regular-season champion will be the host of the conference tournament.

"Lee and Chris are both high-speed personalities," Meade said. "Ian is a little different with a little softer personality who takes things as they come. He's not one of those guys who will run over you just for the sake of doing it. But he's definitely not mellow on the field. He'll get after you when he has to."

Against Army, this might be one of those weeks that he has to.

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