NAVY LACROSSE POSTSEASON WRAPUP

There's a scene in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" where the title characters are trying to evade a group of particularly dogged bounty hunters. No matter what they try, the bounty hunters remain on their trail. "Who ARE these guys?" they keep asking.

Well, that reminds me a bit of how North Carolina ended Navy's lacrosse season. Five times Navy scored a goal. Five times, North Carolina answered within one minute or less.

The old UNC probably would have given up after the third or fourth Navy goal. The new UNC stayed with it until the end of a physical and ultimately hugely disappointing contest for the Mids. They threw a zone that Navy had to adjust to and, by the time they did, Carolina's goalie was in the zone (so to speak). He had seven fourth-quarter saves.

First things first: Navy will be good next year. Especially on defense. I believe Coughlin is the leader to become the starting goalie. The close defense will include DiNola and Teague; Zimmeran will probably be healthy and he is an excellent defender.

Woeppel is an excellent longstick midfielder, one of the best freshmen in the nation. Tormey was the fourth defenseman this year, though Thorp also got playing time.

The shortstick defense will be one of the top two or three units in the country. Leone and both Lennon brothers (the youngest, Joe, was out for most of the year but was rather well recruited and was an excellent high school quarterback) are very bright, are great athletes and work very hard.

There are options at attack and midfield. I'd like to see Paul stay on attack with Mirabito and move Nechanicky to midfield with Daratsos; Lenseth and Higgins are from the same part of NY (Westchster) so maybe keeping them together on the second midfield would be good for chemistry sake.

There are options at faceoff, too, with Visgauss and Decker both expected back.

At Navy, the question is which player(s) will make themselves great in the offseason. In 2003, Joe Bossi and Jon Birsner were the fith and sixth options on midfield after being reserves most of the season.

In 2004, they had two of the best offensive years in school history.

In 2003, Steve Looney was the third-string faceoff man and played defensive midfield. In 2004, he embarked on a career that was slowed only by injury.

In 2000 and 2001, Mike Cataffo sat out for personal reasons. He came back in 2002 and wound up starting on attack. Adam Borcz started as a freshman but gave no sign that, by the time he was a senior, he would become the most complete player in the nation.

There are plenty of candidates to emulate the people above. Evan Sullivan played in the prestigious Under Armor all-American game (as did Woeppel). As we mentioned earlier, Joe Lennon was rather well recruited and is very athletic.

Higgins was probably the most highly recruited player on the team. Brendan Connors scored four goals in a scrimmage against Virginia. Moran has good size (6-feet-4, 200 pounds). Jake Brosnan has excellent speed and could be a Kelly Nash-type player. Kapron knows the game and is a dark horse to start on attack or midfield.

Benko was on the same midfield at DeMatha as Rabil and Billy Looney. Standen was a high school all-American in New England, which is no mean feat.

This doesn't include the incoming freshman class or the NAPSters.

Two suggestions: 1, is to get rid of the No. 8 jersey. It has been nothing but a problem for Nechanicky (this year), Looney (2006 and 2005 late-season injuries) and Eddy Holton (2002 and 2003 injuries).

2, teach someone the front cradle that Steve Looney used to great affect (the one that looks almost like how they cradle the stick in the women's game).

A word about the seniors: It's too bad that the UNC game went the way of the 2005 Georgetown game and 2006 Maryland game in being rained out and thus not on TV because, for three quarters, it sounds like it was a heck of a game. Congrats to UNC—they have broken the habit of their recent losing history and are finally starting to make something of all those high school all-Americans.

The word on the street is that the teams who will be greatly improved next year include UNC, Georgetown, Hopkins and Virginia. I expect three will be on Navy's schedule. Maryland also has an excellent recruiting class coming in and Phipps looked very comfortable in goal.

In the Patriot League, Colgate will be very good and will have quite a bit of motivation after being left out of the NCAA tournament this year. Bucknell had two excellent freshmen attackmen this year, including one who scored three goals in 37 seconds in the PL semifinals (Brandau). The other kid (Winters) was named PL rookie of the year.

But an improved PL can only help Navy. My guess is Navy will play great defense and will be tough on offense because there are weapons all over the field.

And, as always, they will be great fun to watch.


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