The Midshipmen need their second midfield. Navy may be playing twice in three days (or twice in two days if the thunder and lightning hit Annapolis on Friday), and that depth would be vital.
Terence Higgins was a big-time recruit. He had official visits to UNC, Georgetown and Duke, according to published reports, and was recruited by just about everybody. Make no mistake, he can play. Not for nothing was he on the field in the final seconds against Georgetown.
He took Navy's last shot against the Hoyas, a seven-yard shot that wasn't a bad look. Watching the game on tape, however, I noticed that Mirabito's defenseman left him to slide to Higgins. That left Mirabito wide-open on the crease but Higgins did not see him.
Higgins proved a quick learner. In a similar situation against Army, Higgins beat his defender, faked a shot, waited for the defenseman to slide—and fed Dingman for a layup. Perfect.
Higgins's linemate on the second midfield, freshman Brendan Connors, scored four goals in a preseason scrimmage against Virginia. He, too, can play, but he has looked tentative at times—especially against Hopkins. Guido hasn't played in a while but he, too, has talent.
The second midfield was one of the hidden keys to Navy's final four run in 2004. Matt Midura, Steve Looney, Taylor Harris each had huge goals or assists in the NCAA tournament (Harris scored a goal in the NCAA title game as I recall).
The Midshipmen are good enough to make the final four, and a little bit more from Higgins, Connors and Wallace would really help. Give those guys some encouragement!
Finnegan has not played poorly. There have been some defensive breakdowns at bad times and the failed clears have really hurt him because teams like Hopkins and Georgetown, given extended possession time, will find a way to score goals.
Finnegan needs to trust the defense in front of him and improve his play a little and he will be fine.
Meantime…The Hopkins game was the latest example of what has gone wrong for this Navy team. Jordan DiNola left the game with a back injury early in the third quarter. To that point, he had been defending Paul Rabil—and had been doing a more-than-respectable job.
Rabil scored two goals after DiNola left the game.
Geoff Leone also was in and out of the game in the second half with cramps. He was beaten for a goal by Kimmel (I believe), then left the game for treatment and his replacement was beaten for a goal. Leone came back and finished the game, but he clearly was hampered.
The good news is both are expected to play on Friday. Now is not the time for Navy to be playing without its best longstick defender and best shortstick defender.
The clearing game was a problem, but there were some mitigating factors against Hopkins. Watching the game again, I was surprised that, on Wallin's attempted one-man clear midway through the fourth quarter, the Hopkins player (Kimmel again, I believe) was not called for a push in the back. It was a shoulder charge, and it was close, but my initial instinct what that Kimmel got him in the back and not side-to-side (which would not have been a penalty).
I also wonder why Peyser was not called for any procedure penalties on faceoffs. Every Hopkins game I had seen this year (at least five, including TV games), Peyser was called several times for starting too soon on the draw. Not for nothing did he enter with a faceoff winning percentage less than 50 percent.
On Saturday, he was not called for any procedure penalties.
But enough about the referees. Navy lost because it did not have the ball. People can complain about Dingman having only one goal, but when the offense has the ball for less than 8 minutes in a 30-minute second half, that's the problem—not Dingman. I actually thought Dingman did well not to force anything other than the one shot in transition early in the third quarter.
That said, I had forgotten until I talked to Richie Meade this week that the game was tied at 8 in the fourth quarter.
Bottom line: Navy has a really good team. There have been other Navy teams that were good enough to lose by one goal to Hopkins, Maryland and Georgetown. But those teams did not have nearly the talent this team does.
Looney and Dingman are among the top offensive players in the game. Wallace can be a dominating faceoff specialist. The second midfield has plenty of talent. Paul and Daratsos do NOT play like freshmen. Barger, Leone and Lennon are among the top defensive midfields in the country.
DiNola and Dow were big-time recruits, and are starting to play like it. Teague is a very good player and has good size. Now is not the time to dwell on the close losses and third-quarter problems. Keep your fingers crossed and buckle the seatbelts: With a little luck, Navy fans can discuss the three one-goal losses from the parking lot at M&T Bank Stadium waiting for the Mids to play Hopkins in a semifinal.