Before we continue with the rankings, here is a quick recap of the previous ten entries:
22. Men's Soccer
19. Men's Track and Field
18. Women's Basketball
16. Men's Basketball
15. Women's Lacrosse
13. Women's Soccer
And now on with the countdown…
12. Men's Cross Country – Cross Country is a brutal sport. It is just like wrestling in the sense that there are never any breaks. If you slow down you get passed. In sports that are all about endurance, Navy tends to be pretty darn good, and cross country is no exception. Although the team dropped a one-point decision (27-28) to Army in October, they came back to tie the Black Knights for the Patriot League Championship. Amazingly, it was the first time the team has won (or shared the title) since joining the league in 2003. In this year's championship, only two of the top nine finishers were underclassmen – and they are both Navy sophomores (Andrew Hanko and Matt Devillers). Only three freshmen finished in the top 25 – and they too were all from Navy. The Mids will be tough to beat for the next few years. Speaking of a few years, head coach Al Cantello (47 seasons at Navy) may be the finest and most successful coach ever in Annapolis…for any sport.
11. Women's Track and Field – If you do not already know who Amy Watson is, you definitely will before the end of these rankings. I know this list is all about ‘the team,' but Watson deserves a special mention because she helped propel Navy's track team to its first Patriot League Indoor Title since 2001. Watson won the 3,000 and 5,000 meter runs and took second in the mile. Bucknell had won the title the last seven years. The indoor team also edged Army earlier in the season 92-88. Overall, the indoor team finished 13-0 in dual meets, stretching their overall consecutive dual meet winning streak to 41. The outdoor team won 13 of 19 events to topple Army in convincing fashion 116-87. Unfortunately, the outdoor team could not keep Bucknell from winning the Patriot League Championships. The Mids placed second at the event.
10. Squash – Putting the Squash team ahead of Women's Track and Field was a tough call because Navy does not play Army (no team) in the sport. However, the Squash team put together their best season ever winning 27 contests and finishing ranked #14 in the country. Having said that, the team still has a ways to go if it wants to compete with the ‘big boys' of the Squash universe. This season when the Mids played against some of the tougher teams in the country (Dartmouth, Penn and Yale for example), they did not win a match. But even though there is room to grow for the team, it is nice to see them consistently schedule the best programs in the country. It will only make them more competitive in the later part of the season.
9. Water Polo – Another sport Army is afraid to play Navy in is Water Polo, but can you blame them? Army's all-time record against Navy in the sport is 1-23 with their last meeting coming in 1993. So instead of facing the Cadets, Navy has focused its service academy energy on Air Force whom they have beaten the last seven times, including this season (11-4). And the Falcons are no slouch as they finished the season ranked #20. As for the Mids, they finished at #11 after winning the Eastern Championship and then falling to #1 and eventual champion USC and #5 Loyola Marymount in the NCAA Championships. Navy has long been considered the class of the East in Water Polo but they have found it difficult beating any of the upper-tier West Coast teams. Will it ever happen? Will Navy ever advance to the finals of the NCAA tournament? If they do, they will fly up these rankings. However, no team outside of California has ever (since 1969) made it to the NCAA championship game in Water Polo.
8. Tennis – To this point in the rankings, I have not used the word ‘dominate' to describe any of the previous team's performances in their respective conferences. However, that is exactly what Navy's tennis team has done in the Patriot League. Including this year's title (third in a row), the Mids have won 21 consecutive matches in league play. In seven Patriot League contests this season, Navy has won 38 of 44 matches including 9 out of 12 in two team victories over Army. For the year, Navy finished with an 18-8 record which included its fourth NCAA appearance in the last eleven seasons. The only blemish on the tennis team's standing is that when they step out of the Patriot League and face more formidable opponents (think ACC conference), they struggle a lot. Regardless, it was another great year for the team. Hopefully they do not run out of room in the trophy case for all of that hardware they keep collecting.