ARMY-NAVY LACROSSE PREVIEW

Despite entering its annual game against Army with a losing record, all of the Navy men's lacrosse team's season-long goals are within reach. Forcing the season back on the right track would start with a victory for the Midshipmen (5-6, 4-1 Patriot League) over the Black Knights (5-5, 3-0) on Saturday at 4 p.m. in the first game of the Day of Rivals franchise at M&T Bank Stadium.

Put another way, many people remember that Navy's football team defeated Notre Dame in 2007 to end a 43-game losing streak in the series. Perhaps not as many remember that Navy entered South Bend, Ind., with a 4-4 record and on the heels of a loss to Division I-AA Delaware.

The lacrosse team can defeat Army and the following week end another long losing streak -- the 36-game losing streak to Johns Hopkins. If things fall right in conference play -- essentially, if the Black Knights lose on Saturday but win their remaining conference games -- there is a slight chance the Patriot League tournament will be in Annapolis.

It all starts with the game on Saturday. Army enters on a two-game winning streak; it won both games in overtime. Freshman attackman Garrett Thul scored the tying goal late in regulation in both games.

Thul (23 goals) is a big lefty attackman with a hard shot. Navy fans may remember him from his five-goal performance for MAPS against NAPS at M&T Bank Stadium last year.

Army junior Jeremy Boltus (16 goals, 24 assists) was quiet in last year's game -- he was held to one assist by since-graduated Andy Tormey. Sophomore Matt Vernam and junior Tom Mansfield held players they guarded to one goal each.

On Saturday, expect senior midfielder Patrick Moran (team-high 22 goals) to continue to double-shift and be in the game on 75 percent or more of Navy's possessions. Especially if the forecast is for 65 degrees and cloudy, it wouldn't be great for lacrosse but cooler temperatures would help keep Moran fresh. (How's that for positive spin for bad weather?)

Meantime, senior Brendan Connors (15 goals, 8 assists) has scored his goals on just 29 shots. He had three goals against Army last year and a similar performance would be most welcomed by Navy fans.

Yes, the 2010 season has had a slow start. But there is still much to play for. Most of the Brigade will attend the Johns Hopkins game next week. That may provide a spark, especially considering the Blue Jays (5-5) are not having a vintage year, either.

Lafayette (8-2, 3-0) is the best team in the conference but has already played two one-goal games in conference play (victories over Bucknell and Holy Cross) and has two losses since its 15-8 victory over Navy in mid-March.

The business end of the season, as they say in English soccer, starts now.

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