Navy lacrosse team eager to open season Saturday vs. VMI

Midshipmen will be one of Patriot League's youngest teams

February 11, 2011|By Edward Lee, The Baltimore Sun

The Navy men's lacrosse team will be the first area program to begin the 2011 campaign when the Virginia Military Institute visits Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis on Saturday.

As far as Andy Warner is concerned, the season opener couldn't come soon enough.

"I'd prefer to start in the second week that we get here [after winter break]," the senior midfielder said. "We have a lot to get done and lot to learn in those three short weeks, but getting started early helps to get a little confidence going and get our first game under our belts, especially with this young team that we have. You couldn't put a game on early enough for me."

The Midshipmen are eager to play and bury the memory of last spring when they went 7-8 and did not qualify for the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2003. Saturday's contest against the Keydets is the first opportunity to build some distance from last year.

Navy starts the season with what coach Richie Meade speculates is one of his youngest teams in recent memory. Almost half of the roster is populated by freshmen, and 39 of the 56 players are freshmen and sophomores.

Growing pains are inevitable, but Meade is intrigued by the squad's potential.

"This may be the youngest team we've put on the field in many years," he said. "We've kind of changed who we've been in the last couple years. I think we've upgraded our speed and athletic ability in the midfield. I think at attack, we're a little bit deeper. More inexperienced, but a lot of the guys are coming in after a year of playing at the Naval Academy Prep School. They're talented, and I think the league is going to be very, very competitive."

Graduation took three of the Midshipmen's top four scorers, leaving Warner as the only returner with more than 10 goals last year. But Warner is confident that senior midfielder Brian Striffler, junior midfielder Nikk Davis and a group of unproven players on attack can develop chemistry and execute on the field.

"We have some playmakers on offense," Warner said. "The freshmen, Nikk Davis, Brian Striffler, we can all get the job done offensively. So no, I don't really feel a burden where I have to score all the points or I have to have all the assists."

Especially galling last season was the two-game sweep at the hands of Army, including in the championship final of the Patriot League tournament. The Black Knights return seven of 10 starters and are garnering preseason attention.

Meade said he doesn't begrudge voters putting Army at No. 1 and Navy at No. 2 in the Patriot League.

"We are where we are, and we're in a situation where for the last eight or nine years, people say great things about you coming into the season," he said. "It doesn't matter. You're still coming into the season, and we kind of have to fight our way back to kind of regain where we were. That's what this place is about. It's about fighting."

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