Preview: Navy vs. Bucknell

Only two teams have beaten Navy in Patriot League play. Step forward, Bucknell and Colgate. They also happen to be Navy's next two opponents, starting today with a home game against the Bison. Here's a quick look at the matchup.

KEY STAT: 28-29
Faceoffs Navy has won in the past two games in the series. It went 12-12 last year and 16-17 in 2006. Of course, most of that was from William Wallace, who has since graduated.
Bucknell is an unusual team. It uses regularly the "hidden ball trick" as part of its offense, both regular and extra-man. It also uses a 10-man ride on dead ball clearing situations; essentially, it's a full-court, man-to-man pressure defense with the goalie defending the furthest attackman.
The best way to beat it is with quick, flat clearing passes through the middle. Lofted passes tend to give the defense a chance to swarm, as do players who try to break the press/ride by themselves. A quick pass from the goalie into the middle of the field, preferably to a shortstick, usually does the trick. It is very tempting also to take a 40-yard shot--Mirabito did it in 2006 in San Diego--and that works if there is a player to back-up the shot if it goes wide.
This Bison team is a little different from past teams, and frankly, that is to say it's better than past teams. Sophomore A Austin Winter is different from past Bucknell attackman. Guys like Chris Cara (5-feet-6) and Pat Christiansen (5-10 and kinda pudgy) he is not. Winter is 6-4, 200, so he's a tough matchup on a number of levels. I watched last year's game over the computer and I could not tell if DiNola guarded Winter or not, but it looked like he did. That almost certainly will be the way it goes today. 
Brandau, another attackman, also has decent size (5-11, 180) and is explosive, especially goalline extended. That is the place that Navy does not like defending because it messes with its slide packages. See if Bucknell looks to have success there first. Last year the Bison used a lot of big-little screens behind with Winter and a middie but there wasn't much urgency to it. I expect that will be different today.
NAVY (6-1)
The Midshipmen appear to have three midfields they will use regularly. The third midfield played just as much as the first midfield against Lehigh and actually was the highest-scoring unit of the three. Bucknell has a tendency not to slide to every midfielder in the middle of the field; that is something Navy can use to its advantage, because all three lines have good shooters--Daratsos and Moran on the first line and Standen on the third line in particular.
In terms of outside shots, I'd also like to see Beggins (second line) get his hands free for a couple since he shoots bouncers really well. 
Bucknell's goalie, Sciubba, had a great game last year in a 6-3 loss. Navy didn't vary its shooting location much--Dingman in particular went high-high often. It is tempting to do it against Sciubba because he is 5-feet-9, and everyone thinks he will have problems getting the high shots. But like Scherr at Delaware, a similarly-sized goalie, Sciubba has no problems on most high shots. I think Navy can get inside on the Bison with inside rolls--especially with Higgins starting behind the goal--but that's only half the battle. They have to finish shots against Sciubba as well.
Couple things to watch: the faceoffs, and in particular the wing play; Bucknell's 10-man rides and, if Navy breaks it, the resultant either 40-yard shots or 4-on-3 breaks. If the weather is bad, that makes Bucknell's rides even more dangerous. Top Stories