Eulogizing the 2013 College Lacrosse Season: (47) Navy

USA TODAY Sports

After a fairly strong 2012, the Naval Academy struggled through an ugly 2013.

You spent the better part of four months meticulously dissecting the 2013 college lacrosse season. You shouldn't stop now because cold turkey is a bad way to go through life, man. College Crosse is providing decompression snapshots of all 63 teams and their 2013 campaigns, mostly because everything needs a proper burial.

I. VITAL SIGNS

Team: Navy Midshipmen

2013 Record: 3-10 (1-5, Holy Cross)

2013 Strength of Schedule (Efficiency Margin): -0.27 (31)

2012 Strength of Schedule (Efficiency Margin): 0.86 (25)

Winning Percentage Change from 2012: -26.92%

2013 Efficiency Margin: -6.04 (47)

Efficiency Margin Change from 2012: -9.62

II. "ATTA BOY!" FACT

  • I always try and find some sunshine for every team -- absolute darkness doesn't comport with the American experience -- but the season that Navy turned in last year didn't provide many points of light. The defense, anchored by Pat Kieran (who returns in 2014) and Austin Miller, was fairly average this season and the stronger aspect to Mids overall play in 2013, but it's a particular aspect to Navy's defensive play that is somewhat interesting -- the pressure aspect to the unit's play. The Midshipmen finished the year ranked fourth nationally in caused turnovers per 100 defensive opportunities and 12th in riding rate (16.28 percent). Those two traits helped buoy a defensive effort that (1) saw opponents turn the ball over on about 47 percent of their offensive opportunities (19th nationally), (2) limited functional defensive possessions that the Naval Academy needed to play (an estimated 91 percent of the defensive opportunities that Navy faced found gestation in the attack box, the 12th best mark in the nation), and (3) killed functional defensive possessions at an estimated rate that ranked 22nd nationally (the rate at which Navy killed these functional opportunities through a caused turnover ranked second nationally). This wasn't an exceptional defensive unit, but how it attempted to snuff out defensive opportunities wasn't all bad.

III. "YOU'RE GROUNDED UNTIL YOU QUALIFY FOR THE AARP!" FACT

  • After notably improving from 2011 to 2012, Navy drastically regressed from 2012 to 2013. In fact, only two schools -- Colgate and Massachusetts -- saw a more drastic decrease in their Pythagorean win expectation than Navy's regression: The Midshipmen's win expectation drop of 25.70 percent was, quite simply, dastardly. In terms of adjusted efficiency margin, just one program -- the Minutemen -- had a wider gulf between their 2012 ranking in the metric and their 2013 finishing position: Navy's 28 position slide stood in stark contrast to the team's 23 position climb from 2011 to 2012. Now, the Naval Academy deals with a host unique circumstances that other programs don't need to deal with (qualification, academic requirements, secondary responsibilities, etc.), but it's not like the Midshipmen are a program that hasn't risen above these issues in the past -- this is a program that has served as a bell cow for the Patriot League and holds two NCAA Tournament silver medals (1975 and 2004). Navy went to every NCAA Tournament from 2004 through 2009 (winning every conference regular season title through that stretch), and has a lineage that most programs would sell kidneys for. And it's not like Rick Sowell doesn't have the chops to make great things happen -- this is a cat that restarted the St. John's program, brought Stony Brook forward into the national consciousness, and won an Ivy League title with Dartmouth in 2003 (the only NCAA Tournament appearance the program has ever made (and just the second time that Dartmouth wore the Ivy crown)). It's just . . . the depths to which Navy fell in 2013 is almost beyond conception. The Mids shouldn't experience this kind of year-to-year turbulence -- if West Point can keep it relatively together from one season to the next, Annapolis should sit in a similar position -- and yet, Navy's performance this season reflects that of a team that was unable to sustain itself; it was the anti-hallmark of the Midshipmen's tradition.

IV. MR. FIX-IT HAS A ONE-FIX ENGAGEMENT, AND IT'S . . .

  • Navy needs to find its identity under Sowell; the team's overall performance likely follows from that foundation. Sowell has only been in Annapolis for two seasons, and with the core that he's working with -- Sam Jones, Tucker Hull, Kiernan, etc. -- Sowell should have the parts necessary to get Navy's momentum moving in the right direction. Navy is always going to have a different kind of experience in the whole of Division I lacrosse; thriving in that situation is Annapolis' biggest issue at the moment.
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