Sunday, May 19, 2024

As for Lax: Army-Navy Preview

This past weekend was tough. Army literally lost in the closing moments against a Top 5 opponent in what had been a constant back-and-forth contest all day. Cornell came out hot, but Army continued to tie it, even in the 4th quarter after the Big Red took what appeared to be a decisive three-goal lead early in the period. Even then, however, the Black Knights hit back and were literally seconds away from going into extra time when everything it could have happened, and they just couldn’t—completely—do it. This has absorbed a lot.

With the loss and the way things have panned out in the rest of the Patriot League this season, Army almost certainly must now win the Patriot League title to reach the NCAA Tournament.

For now, though, they just have to win the next one.

Friends, this next game is a big one. It’s finally time for him BEAT NAVY!

The recent history of this rivalry has been one that is emulated in every sport in which Army and Navy face off. Data DOES NOT MATTER. In recent years, Army has seen a Navy team with a sub-.500 record come in and dominate the field. When it comes to this rivalry, both teams will play like it’s for the championship. Let’s take a look at some of the games within a game we’ll see this Saturday.

PROTECTION

This game will start defensively first, as many games have this season. Army entered the Cornell game with the number one scoring defense in the country, thanks in no small part to AJ Pilati and crew.

Knox Dent’s return to the cage really helped last week. He made save after save every time it looked like the Cornell Big Red would take control on offense.

Army’s ability to play solid defense against every team in the country has been one of the stories of the season. However, if the Army defense wants to play their game, the Black Knights can’t afford to rely on them as early or nearly as often as they did against Cornell.

Offensive possessions

Against Cornell and many other opponents this season, the offense appears to be frantic at times early in the game. Only in the second half do the black knights get into a rhythm and begin to implement their plan. This can drain the energy of the defense and sometimes the team falls behind on the scoreboard as well.

The good news is that Army’s offense has stepped up several times to get comfortable late runs. However, when these games stay tight, Army’s defense can find itself playing tired. We saw that against Colgate, and then we saw it again against Cornell.

It’s a worrying trend, but one that the team can correct. This week, the team will want to come out hot, going all out because it’s Army-Navy. However, for Army, a better plan would be to pick the ball, work the clock and make sure they get good shots. If they can do it against the Navy, when emotions run high, then they can do it against anyone.

After all, the offense should help the defense keep fresh legs late in big games. This is going to be huge from here on out.

transitional

Army has a good stud in Will Colletti at the “X” tackle. However, we need to talk about the cleaning/riding game.

At the beginning of the season, the Army Trip was awarded to opposing teams when they tried to pass the ball over the midfield line. However, the last three or so games have softened. Maybe teams have watched more film and therefore found ways to break up the drive, or maybe teams in mid-season form make more crisp passes. Regardless, Army would do well to find a way to make minor adjustments and get back into the groove of messing with teams in free throws.

On the other hand, Army hasn’t pushed much in their transition game. They are a solid six team unless they can get the occasional free faceoff win. But as we approach playoff/championship lacrosse, being able to steal a goal or two in quick transition can quickly become the difference between a good team and a great team.

Granted, this goes directly against what we said earlier about slowing down possessions for the sake of defense. However, the team needs to find a better balance between opportunism and the six-on-six offense. They do this by making good shots, either opportunistically in transition or intentionally with the offense set up. Either way, it’s about not rushing, but finding quality footage.

Boat School

Marina has sea very difficult this season. They started the season 3-0, but followed that up with six straight losses to both top and lesser opponents. Recently, however, they have rattled off four straight against Patriot League opponents, including Loyola and Boston University. Both are a good team.

Alas, the squid are moving forward and getting healthy just when it matters most. Despite everything, they might be the hottest team in the Patriot League heading into the tournament. Marina has the talent and depth to contend with anyone when healthy. They will certainly be up for a fight on Saturday night.

Beat ‘Em!

Overall, this will be a big game for both teams and not just because of the rivalry. Army has already clinched a spot in the Patriot League tournament — they were the first team to do so — but they must continue to win to ensure home court advantage. Meanwhile, Navy must stay hot if they want to stay relevant. This should already be their year, and friends, it could still be with a win this week and a streak to the Patriot League Championship.

More recently, the Navy has had the Army’s number. However, this is a game the Army can and should win. Then they will be just one win away from hosting the PL Tournament.

Rest.

Cover image via Donna Tamasitis at Smugmug.

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