ANNAPOLIS — At some point in the next three weeks, a nearly decade-long era of Navy lacrosse will end.
There are, after all, no more DiNola boys on the way to the academy.
In a program with no shortage of family tie-ins, the DiNolas — Dustin, then Seth and now Jordan — have remained a fixture for the Midshipmen (9-5), who visit fourth-seeded North Carolina (8-5) tonight in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Dustin was an attackman who encountered injury problems. Seth was a goalie-turned-long pole, a switch early in the 2004 season that helped Navy reach the national title game.
Jordan was the most coveted recruit of the three. Like his brothers, he wound up at Navy, started the last three seasons on defense and is a likely All-America selection.
“The perfect boy,” coach Richie Meade said. “He’s the whole package. He could have went to Notre Dame or Duke for free and he came here. He didn’t come here because of anything except that his brothers came here. In their family, I think there’s a tremendous amount of loyalty to each other, which is pretty cool.”
There was never any serious pressure for Jordan to follow his brothers to Annapolis. Gary DiNola insisted he shouldn’t think in terms of a family legacy and instead emphasized the educational value of any experience.
Ultimately, there was plenty of allure to playing for the Midshipmen — the chance to be Seth’s teammate for a year and build on the relationships he already had started while visiting for games.
“Jordan went in open-minded, and we wedged the crowbar with everything and said ‘Navy isn’t something you have to do,’ ” Gary DiNola, said. “He took his visits objectively. But there was a bond between the brothers.”
Neither older sibling made too much of a push, but Seth knew a season of playing with his younger brother would be meaningful. He also had a pretty good idea the Midshipmen would have the chance to develop a difference-maker.
“Even though you don’t want to put out the expectations he was going to be a great player, I always kind of knew he’d be a great player,” Seth DiNola said. “It was just a matter of getting stronger. He was a smart defender and fit in perfect into our system. He’s a monster now; 6-foot-3, 190 pounds — and I can still kick his butt.”
A typical comment for an older brother. There are ways to tweak back, such as the running joke of how Seth asks each week who he’s guarding when the scouting report is released.
Jordan’s reply: “I’d say ‘Seth, give it up. Your career is done.’ ”
Soon, Jordan’s will be as well. A nine-year run will be over, but the experience of playing at Navy will never fade.
“It’s special,” Jordan said. “It’s something I can share with my brothers forever, that we played here at some point.”