- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 9, 2009

ANNAPOLIS | The Navy lacrosse team assembled for its orientation meeting, a regular August tradition filled with boilerplate details about the upcoming season.

Typically, the Midshipmen know a little about their team for the upcoming year to make it through without any zaniness. But there was one thing they weren’t certain of, and sure enough it came up: the identity of their captain, a position with a little more responsibility at an academy than elsewhere and one the team votes for each year.

“Everyone just basically looked at each other, and we whispered at first,” goalie Tommy Phelan said. “But we said, ‘Tormey.’ Twenty people said it at the same time.”

Sure enough, it was defenseman Andy Tormey, who slipped out the back of the auditorium to ask coach Richie Meade which of the Mids’ seniors had earned the honor. He soon stepped back in and confirmed the news.

Quietly, Tormey celebrated the end of a mind game he played throughout the summer and started looking toward a season that landed Navy (11-4) in the first round of the NCAA tournament Saturday at third-seeded Duke (13-3).

“I have a couple real close friends, and I’d talk to them and play out every situation,” Tormey said. “I’d say, ‘What if he gets it? Is he more qualified than me to get it?’ Playing through all these situations in my head drove me crazy.”

It turned out to be an ideal choice for Navy, which endured tumult on defense during a 6-3 start. Two original starters on close defense were benched, and the Mids switched goalies twice before the end of March.

Yet Tormey remained steady, serving as a de facto traffic cop as Navy at one point played a freshman on defense and at goalie. It was, he said, difficult at times, particularly when fellow senior and good friend Thomas Zimmerman lost his spot in the lineup in late March.

There were, however, larger concerns, and he wanted the Mids to play well heading into the postseason. Despite the fluctuations early in the season, Tormey regularly held senior meetings in the locker room on Sunday nights, ensuring a chance to voice any issues plaguing the team.

“My main goal was to get everybody involved and give everybody a sense of belonging on the team whether you were a scout player or if you’re a starter,” Tormey said. “That paid huge dividends because, as the season goes on, usually here it’s easy to get cynical about things. Sometimes that translates to the field.”

Perhaps it did this season. The Mids won five of their last six - their best finish to the regular season since 2004, when they reached the national title game - toppling rivals Army and Maryland and snagging a Patriot League title in the process.

Along the way, Tormey provided stability. In the league tournament, he contained Colgate’s Kevin Colleluori and Bucknell’s Joe Mele to a goal each.

“Most guys are either quiet and kind of a hard-ass and they don’t talk, or they talk too much and talk but don’t walk,” Phelan said. “He’s the happy medium of everything. He’s positive when we need someone to be positive. He gets on us when we’re kind of lazy and we need someone to give us a swift quick in the butt.”

In that sense, it’s little surprise he was chosen to represent the Mids this season.

“Everything we hope you become as a leader through the four-year process here, I think Andy has,” Meade said. “Now he’s not going to be jumping out of airplanes with paint on his face at 3 o’clock in the morning in Afghanistan. That’s not his deal. He’s still an effective leader, and that’s the goal.”

His approach helped send Navy into its sixth straight NCAA tournament. And while the sizzling Blue Devils would be a difficult opponent for anyone this month, they’re just the latest obstacle for the captain by acclamation to navigate in a memorable season.

“There’s been lots of ups and down,” Tormey said. “Being here, you get used to getting things thrown at you and having to deal with it on the run, and that’s what it’s been like. … It’s been a long and stressful year, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world because it’s been a great experience.”

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