When Navy senior midfielder Graham Gill scored back-to-back goals in the closing minutes to lift the Midshipmen to a 9-8 victory over Maryland on April 8, he changed the course of the Mids' season and his own.
That night, Gill began to put a horrid scoring slump behind him. Navy (11-3) buried its week-old, 11-6 loss to Georgetown and began to resemble a promising playoff team again.
After managing just seven goals in his first nine games, Gill, a preseason second-team All-American who is among Navy's top athletes, has 10 goals in his past five games.
"It's a delicate thing when you start to question yourself. What's wrong with my stick? What's wrong with my shot?" Gill said. "That [Maryland] game was definitely a turning point for me. I felt like I was letting the game come to me a little more. I felt calm. I got my head turned around straight."
Gill, who also is second on the team with 14 assists, is shooting only 22.1 percent, although that is nearly double the percentage he carried into the Maryland game.
Navy coach Richie Meade wonders if Gill was subconsciously trying to do too much, as the Mids adjusted to the loss of former star attackman Ian Dingman, who was dismissed from the academy last winter for academic reasons.
"Graham is playing a little more at ease, trying to do less and create more for his teammates. He's really come into his own the last month," Meade said.
"We didn't have a Vulcan mind meld or anything about this. I think Graham kind of came to it on his own. He's obviously a big part of what we're doing, and he's taken a little more of the pressure off of himself."
The question was there at the start of the regular season, and it still lingers strongly, with the postseason about to begin.
Is this finally the year the streak ends for Syracuse?
The Orange, which has been to 22 consecutive NCAA tournament final fours and has won nine national titles during that run - including last year's 14-13 thriller over Navy - does not look good right now.
Syracuse (7-5) gave up 30 combined goals in two losses over its past four games, lost three times at home this spring, did not beat a team currently ranked in the top 10, and is unseeded in the tournament. And for the first time in about a decade, Syracuse does not have the game's premier player.
On top of that, the team is not sure what senior defenseman Scott Ditzell and freshman defenseman Kyle Guadagnolo will give in Sunday's first-round game at Massachusetts, which blew a five-goal, fourth-quarter lead 12 days ago before rallying to edge the Orange in overtime.
Ditzell and Guadagnolo each missed the UMass game with an undisclosed illness. Ditzell, who had complained of flu-like symptoms, was cleared to practice this week. Guadagnolo, who had started nine games, has yet to be cleared.
That doesn't stop junior attackman Brett Bucktooth (17 goals, team-high 20 assists) from thinking Syracuse once again can do its thing.
"The sun is out. We've got clear skies up here, and it's Part 2 of our season," Bucktooth said. "Sure, we'd like to get back to the final four. Our main focus right now is putting together four quarters in a row, and we have to do that first against UMass."
If the Orange knocks off the Minutemen, it would leave the task of ending the Syracuse run to top-seeded Johns Hopkins in next week's quarterfinal round at Homewood Field. The Blue Jays, who erased a six-goal deficit before winning in overtime at the Carrier Dome on March 18, were derailed in the national semifinals last year by Syracuse.
Only one other time has Syracuse entered the tournament with five losses. In 2003, the Orange got to the semifinals, then were blown out by Johns Hopkins, 19-8.
Hopkins has no players ranked in the top 20 in any offensive categories, but Blue Jays sophomore goalie Jesse Schwartzman, who has allowed 6.33 goals per game, leads the NCAA. Navy junior Matt Russell (6.42) is second ... Maryland has scored 47 goals over its four-game winning streak, including last week's 21-6 trouncing at Penn, where coach Dave Cottle used 42 players. One week earlier, he had used 28 players against Duke.