Ten Questions for Navy Lacrosse 5-1

As the Navy Midshipmen get closer to their 2010 lacrosse season opener, GoMids.com's Christian Swezey asks and answers some important lingering questions for the team.

5. Who Will Be the Starting Goalie?

Navy Coach Richie Meade is not tipping his hand in naming a starter before the opener. Sophomore RJ Wickham started six games last year and was the apparent choice in 2010.

It may still happen. But he was being pushed hard by junior Mike Haas, who has not played in a varsity game in his career. Haas was, however, a four-year letter winner and high school All-American at La Salle (Pa.). He received a majority of the playing time in the fall, albeit while Wickham was out with an illness.

Each played one half in the winter scrimmages. Wickham started both, Haas played the second half of both. Navy enters 2010 with a relatively young defense. That likely means the goalie will have to help with communication and getting defenders in the right spots. And in that regard, Haas's extra year of experience is vital.

Either way, it's good news for Navy fans that Haas, Wickham, senior Ward Odenwald and talented freshman Nolan Hickey are all capable goalies.

4. How Is the Non-Conference Schedule?

The usual powers are there -- No. 4 North Carolina (Feb. 25), No. 5 Johns Hopkins (April 24), No. 8 Maryland (April 10) and No. 13 Georgetown (April 2). New faces include No. 16 Loyola (Md.) and Towson.

North Carolina has an outstanding attack and close defense but needs to develop or identify midfield depth.

Johns Hopkins ended 2009 with numerous pressing needs -- better groundball play; more athletes on defense; and a communicator on defense. All three were filled. Maryland has a strong close defense and goalie; the offense is somewhat of a puzzle but if Coach Dave Cottle finds the right fit for his talented players, Maryland will be hard to beat.

Georgetown enters 2010 with noticeable desperation. The Hoyas have not been to the NCAA tournament in the past two years and they are starting to fall behind in the recruiting battles. The pressure is on a talented senior class. And keep an eye on freshman attackman Travis Comeau. He is a Canadian native and like most players from there, he is very adept at catching passes in tight spaces and releasing quick and accurate shots with little or no room.

3. Who's Who in the Patriot League?

Bucknell is ready for a strong year. The attack has two multi-year starters in seniors Austin Winter (17 goals, 32 assists last year) and Tim Brandau (20G, 6A); sophomore Charlie Streep (25 goals in 2009) is back at midfield; and the goalie is a freshman who was highly-recruited out of Connecticut. Bucknell loses a lot on defense but its system is predicated on playing as a unit rather than individual talents.

The up-and-comer is Lehigh. Coach Kevin Cassese and his young assistants are tireless recruiters. Expect Lehigh to play a number of freshmen and sophomores, including sophomore MF Cameron Lao-Gosney (18G, 6A).

Army will be defense-heavy, with sophomore LSM Tim Henderson and his brother, junior D Bill Henderson, leading the way. Colgate will initiate its offense through its midfield and will be maddeningly creative on both sides of the ball.

2. Can the Defense Play at Its Usual High Standard?

The defense does not have much experience. Talent-wise, however, Navy's longsticks are the best in recent years.

Sophomore Matt Vernam defended two first-team All-American attackmen last year (Colgate's Brandon Corp and Duke's Ned Crotty). Junior Michael Hirsch is fast, physical and knows the defense.

Freshman Peter Rogers played extensively in the preseason scrimmages; like Hirsch, he is a lefty and thus they can get their sticks in right-handed opponent's passing lanes. Sophomore Ian Crumley was an All-Met at St. Albans (DC) and faced top attackmen in one of the best high school leagues in the country; he can play longstick middie but is probably best playing an off-ball attackman.

The above list does not include junior Tom Mansfield, who started six games last year and is one of the quickest defenders. Nor does it include talent long-stick middies Jaren Woeppel (28 groundballs, 9 caused turnovers) and do-everything Zack Schroeder (3G, 4A, 28GB, 15CT).

Also back are seniors Gordon Lawson, a man-down specialist who missed much of the preseason with an injury, and speedy Jake Brosnan, who started several games last year.

The short-stick defenders will be young -- the starters may be freshmen Jordan Seivold and Bucky Smith -- so expect opponents to target that area rather than taking their chances with the fast, physical longsticks.

1. How Will Navy Do in 2010?

It says something about Navy's ambition that Meade took a long look at most facets of the program even though the Midshipmen have made the NCAA tournament six consecutive years. He particularly stressed conditioning, stick work and transition. "We didn't change everything," Meade said. "But we put a different emphasis on certain things at different times."

The offense historically has at times been tentative. And the improved decision-making Meade has cultivated needs to come at full speed, not half-speed for fear of "paralysis by analysis."

The extra-man offense is off to a great start and if Navy can convert a goal or two on EMO and one or two in transition, it would take a lot of the pressure off the six-on-six offense.

Keep an eye on senior MF Joe Lennon. Meade raved about Lennon's off-season shooting regimen and it appeared to pay dividends for Lennon when the lefty scored against UMBC on a right-handed shot.

The defense appears quicker and more physical than in recent years. Whether they understand Navy's defensive system is another question. Loyola and North Carolina, with their talented attack units, will provide stern tests of that knowledge.

The smaller aspects of the game -- short-stick defenders, face-offs, man-down defense, communicating on defense -- are questions as well, though face-offs are in the capable hands of volunteer assistant Mark Goers, one of the best face-off men in NCAA history.

For fans, the experiments include more Friday night home games. That's good news for the weary team members to get some rest on Saturday and for area fans who have a chance to see a top game on Saturday afternoon. It's maybe not good news for fans and parents who have high school games to watch on Friday nights.

The Army-Navy game moves to M&T Bank Stadium for the second consecutive year as part of Inside Lacrosse's Day of Rivals; it also gets a later start time than last year's 11 a.m. face-off.

Bottom line: There are a lot of reasons for confidence and excitement as Navy embarks on the season.

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