1. Dingman is playing some ball.
Six first-half groundballs against North Carolina. Three good rides against Colgate, two of which resulted in failed clears. Two good rides in the first quarter against Bucknell, both of which resulted in groundballs (Navy recovered one). Another time against the Bison, he got a groundball to keep alive a Navy extra-man chance.
Sixty-eight percent of his shots are on goal this year, more than 20 points higher than last season.
Essentially, he is doing all of the little things: Taking better shots, riding better, making the effort plays. And it's not like he never did these things before. Don't forget that the victory over the Hoyas in 2004 was clinched when Dingman busted a clear in the final minute and then fed someone (I think Bossi) for the goal that made it 7-5.
2. Billy Looney is not forcing the action
He had 45 shots on goal in 15 games last year; he has 46 in eight games this year. Eight assists in eight games this year; eight assists in 31 games over the past two years. The goals aren't coming--yet--but everything else is. Looney has let teams know that paying too much attention to him will open things up for Daratsos (nine goals) and Wallin (six goals, two assists). It's a facet of his game that I think was missing over the past two years. The goal numbers are down (he has nine) but his unselfishness is why the Mids are 8-0.
3. Navy can play any style of lacrosse
It's one of the hallmarks of a great team. Virginia had it in spades last year. Princeton and Notre Dame won faceoffs, made saves and slowed the game down against UVa last season. The Cavaliers had no problem playing six-on-six on offense and defense and won both games. Syracuse looked to run, and the Cavaliers scored 20 and 17 in those games.
I think Navy feels comfortable in any kind of game this year. Colgate was slow to slide to Daratsos, so Navy played up-tempo in those situations. It looked like Navy ran a ton against North Carolina.
Bucknell played a slower game, but Nechanicky made them pay with timely passes for good shots. Navy missed tons of 4 on 3 fast breaks when they lost to Bucknell in 2005. What happened in the first quarter this year? Wallace and Nechanicky connected on a 4 on 3 for a goal.
About the only thing we haven't seen from Navy is how they play coming from behind.
4. The shortstick defenders are playing well
There is depth at this position. Leone is a very good athlete, as is Bobby Lennon. Wallin, Brosnan, Higgins and Visgauss all appear able to play there, too, which will help as the weather gets warmer. The longstick middies are playing well, too. It's good to see Zimmerman back after his knee surgery; he is several weeks ahead of schedule and it's good he is not playing for the first time in this crucial stretch of games.
5. Navy is taking more penalties
Though this also could be called, 'the referees at the Colgate game were clueless.' The Midshipmen have 33 penalties this year, including seven against the Raiders. Here is their total at season's end the past few years: 46, 54, 53, 25, 58 and 50. There are at least five more games to play--four regular season and a Patriot League tourney game. At this rate, regardless of any postseason play, the Mids are on pace for 53 penalties in 13 games, which is a bit high. Given Georgetown's struggles on extra-man, I wonder if Navy will be tempted to play a little more aggressive than usual.
6. Finnegan is doing just fine.
His clearing passes against Bucknell were a revelation. Most failed clears come because a longstick gets the ball in traffic and is swarmed by attackmen. The long clearing pass, when it works, is quite a weapon. Watch Finnegan in warmups--he works with the defensemen on clears and it looks almost like a quarterback throwing warmup passes to wide receivers. His play is giving Navy tons of confidence on defense.
Bucknell had nearly four minutes of extra-man offense in the early part of the fourth quarter on Sunday and didn't score. And that's a pretty good offense, too.