Freshman attack Sam Jones made his debut in front of his hometown crowd a memorable one, scoring four goals to lead the Navy men's lacrosse team to a 14-8 victory over Virginia Military Institute in the opener for both teams Saturday afternoon at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
The four goals by Jones are the most by a Mids player since Taylor Harris scored six against Holy Cross on March 26, 2006, and ties for the second-most goals by a Mid during coach Richie Meade's 17-year tenure.
"I've been dreaming about coming to the academy and playing lacrosse since I was probably 4 years old," said Jones, a third-generation Navy lacrosse player. "My grandfather [Jack Jones, a 1954 graduate who was the recipient that year of the Kelly Award as the nation's top college goaltender] and my father [Dave Jones, a 1982 graduate who was the captain of the lacrosse team his senior year] didn't pressure me. It was just something I always wanted to do.
"I was more anxious than nervous," Jones said about his start in Saturday's opener. "But having played with Tucker [Hull] and Harrison [Chaires] at [the Naval Academy Preparatory School], we have a good chemistry, so that made me feel more comfortable. Our middies did a good job of moving the ball, and I just happened to be the one open. For a guy that's dreamt about this since he was 4 or 5, it's a pretty cool feeling."
Fellow starting attackman Tucker Hull scored one goal and had three assists, while Chaires (Ellicott City) had a goal and an assist, and Austin Heneveld scored an extra-man strike late in the third. In all, Navy's rookie class accounted for eight goals and four assists.
Junior midfielder Nikk Davis of Cockeysville scored a pair of goals, and junior Taylor Reynolds got a long-awaited opportunity at attack and capitalized. Not only did Reynolds score his first collegiate goal, but he also got his first hat trick in his first career start.
"This is what I've been waiting for," said Reynolds, who played alongside midfielders Ryan O'Leary and Matt Bitter his freshman year and was used mainly as a rider his sophomore season. "Matched up with two freshmen out there, it's really a huge leadership responsibility and one that I'm more than happy to take on. To get a chance to not only show what I can contribute, but also start a game is really a dream come true."
While Navy's offense seemed to be a well-oiled machine, it seemed to take a quarter of play before the Mids were truly settled on both sides of the field. After the first quarter, the game was tied at 4 and two of Navy's goals had been scored on extra man.
"I think there was some concern about getting into a game where we might get impatient or frustrated," said Meade, who has directed the Mids to victory in 10 straight season openers. "They put some pressure on our offense early on, and I thought we did a good job of handling it. Once we got through the first quarter, I think we were able to gain control in the second."
Navy was dominant in the second quarter, outscoring the Keydets, 6-2, with the attack scoring all six goals, including three by Jones. The Mids had a 10-6 lead at the half.
"The defense made a lot of mistakes, and there were probably four goals that we gave up and shouldn't have," Meade said. "I think it was a really good effort, and while a lot of things went well for us, there's a lot that we can improve upon."
The Midshipmen will play Loyola on Saturday in Baltimore.