Low profile, high ability

Mids' oft-overlooked Leone, Lennon prepare for No. 9 Maryland

Navy

April 03, 2009|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,edward.lee@baltsun.com

The front covers of men's lacrosse media guides are usually reserved for the returning leading scorer, the impenetrable goalie or the physically imposing defenseman.

Geoff Leone and Bobby Lennon don't necessarily fit the bill, but that didn't prevent Navy from putting the two on the cover of this season's guide alongside senior defenseman and team captain Andy Tormey.

It's an illustration of the respect the Midshipmen coaches and players have for two seniors who play a defensive midfielder position that rarely attracts much attention.

"When I was asked, 'Who do you want on there?' those were the two guys I thought of," Navy coach Richie Meade said. "There's a lot of great kids here, but in terms of effort and playing time, they're kind of at the top of this senior class."

As short-stick defensive midfielders, Leone and Lennon take the field with a list of responsibilities that includes shadowing some of the opponents' best offensive players, kick-starting the transition game, and putting the Midshipmen's offense in position to score goals. Those tasks will be at a premium when No. 15 Navy (7-3) plays host to No. 9 Maryland (6-3) on Friday at 7 p.m. at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

Their success is not defined by goals scored, saves made or ground balls collected. In fact, Lennon, a Westminster native and Loyola graduate, said the greatest praise is when none is offered.

"It's like being an offensive lineman in football," he said. "If no one's paying attention to you, you must be doing an all right job."

And like offensive linemen, short-stick defensive midfielders play an important role. During six-on-six situations, a defense may feature no more than four players with 6-foot-long sticks. The remaining two players have the traditional shorter poles and are generally regarded as the weak links of the defense, according to ESPN analyst Mark Dixon.

"Oftentimes, you really want to pick that second [defensive midfielder], who might be more of an offensive player, and take advantage of that matchup," said Dixon, a former midfielder for Johns Hopkins. "By having Lennon and Leone, who are two guys you can put out there, it just makes it that much more of a luxury because you have two guys who are stout defensively, and there's really no drop-off between the two."

Leone and Lennon said they have different qualities that complement each other. At 6 feet 2, 192 pounds, Lennon is lankier and uses his long frame to shadow bigger opponents. At 5-10 and 187 pounds, Leone is considered the stronger and quicker of the duo.

They have also tapped into their offensive backgrounds this season. Leone scored two goals in Navy's 10-8 victory over Georgetown on Saturday and has added two assists. Lennon has recorded a goal and two assists.

Although they have the green light to take shots in the transition from defense to offense, both players said their first priority is dumping the ball off to an offensive teammate and racing off the field for a substitution.

"For Bobby and me both, if we make the decision to pull the ball out and we let our middies get out there and they score on offense, that's the same as us scoring, because we did our job," Leone said. "We got the ball down there, and we made a smart decision to not push it and force a turnover. For Bobby and me, that's a plus for us."

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