The Washington Times - February 3, 2009, 04:10PM

Took in the Navy-Virginia lacrosse scrimmage on Saturday, and it speaks volumes on how busy things have been with the Maryland basketball team that I’m just getting to a couple posts on it now.

First off: Navy. You know, that scrappy bunch that overcame a complete absence of offense to make the NCAA quarterfinals last year.

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Well, the Midshipmen can score a little this year. And perhaps most importantly, they have a ton of guys to throw out in many situations.

“We played a lot of guys the whole time,” coach Richie Meade said of the 8-8 tie. “We played seven close defensemen and four poles and at least four short stick defensive midfields. We played a bunch of midfields, and four or five attackmen the whole game.”

That is simply crucial. When Navy made its stirring run to the NCAA final in 2004, it could send wave after wave after wave of players. It remained true, but to a lesser extent, the next year when the Mids made the quarterfinals and lost to Virginia.

But the last couple years, Navy was stuck in a sort of lacrosse purgatory – not nearly as complete as those mid-decade teams, but not as limited as the teams circa 2002 and 2003.

This has a chance to be a more intriguing team, if only because there is some offense beyond Tim Paul. The return of Bruce Nechanicky from injury is going to create some more versatility, and it’ll be interesting to see how Navy capitalizes on some unpredictability.

As for the defense, well, it’s a Navy defense. It’s a system, and it’s going to function more than adequately. Matt Coughlin looks like he’ll start in goal, and the performance of the close defense against a Virginia team down a few of its top threats still was generally good despite a few messed up plays.

“They didn’t outrun us, they didn’t out anything us,” Meade said. “They got the ball inside a couple times and those were the result of some younger guys making a mistake and recovering, and those types of things are happening.”

They could continue to happen. Meade probably doesn’t want to hear that, but it’s certainly plausible. Navy always has the automatic berth in the Patriot League to play for in April, but it would still be well served to iron out its problems before dealing with the likes of Georgetown, Maryland, Army and Johns Hopkins on the back end of the schedule.

“There’s only one way to learn, and it’s to feel pain – to be able to try to figure these things out and talk through these things together,” Meade said.

He no doubt hopes the talking pays off when VMI visits for the season opener Saturday in Annapolis.

Patrick Stevens