- The Washington Times - Friday, April 7, 2006

The Navy lacrosse team has used early April victories over Maryland to galvanize its season for the last two years.

The Midshipmen would love nothing more than to make it three in a row.

No. 8 Navy (7-2) visits No. 4 Maryland (6-2) tonight at Byrd Stadium in a game that carries postseason implications.

Maryland already has road victories over Georgetown and Duke. The latter came before the Blue Devils canceled the rest of their season this week in the wake of rape accusations leveled at three players.

Still, that’s a far better resume than the one Navy has crafted. The Midshipmen have no victories over teams currently in the top 20 of the Inside Lacrosse poll and face Maryland, No. 20 Army and No. 7 Johns Hopkins in succession before the Patriot League tournament.

“April’s always a crucial part of our season,” Navy senior attackman Jon Birsner said. “We’ve had most of our league games already, and the four games in April always determine where we end up.”

For the last two seasons, that meant the playoffs. Navy marched into Byrd Stadium two years ago and stunned then-No. 1 Maryland. The victory sent the Midshipmen on a run that took them to the precipice of a national title.

Last year the Mids squeezed out a 9-8 victory over the Terrapins. The win propelled Navy on a late-season push that ended in the NCAA quarterfinals.

Navy could use a similar jolt, especially after Saturday’s 9-5 loss to Georgetown. The Mids have split their last four games after a quick start and have remained in the top 10 only because of the sport’s burgeoning unpredictability.

“I think both teams are looking for something,” Navy coach Richie Meade said. “They’re looking for a little bit of a boost going into this last part of the season. I think we need something to validate our effort right now.”

Of immediate concern is Navy’s often shaky shooting. The Mids have shot 27 percent as a team, including a 5-for-40 effort against Georgetown. The starting midfield shot a combined 2-for-20, and the starting attack managed only one goal until the final 97 seconds.

Those miseries could continue against the Terps. However, should Navy’s stars — notably attackman Ian Dingman and midfielders Billy Looney and Steve Looney — elude Maryland’s talented poles, there is little doubt they will keep shooting.

Maryland is still stinging from Saturday’s 15-5 loss to No. 1 Virginia, the Terps’ first double-digit defeat in three years. Picking up a win in a series defined by tight games — the last seven meetings have been decided by 10 goals — would help erase some of the concerns created by that loss.

“Last year was a battle and we expect a battle this year,” Maryland coach Dave Cottle said. “We’re going to have to play well to win, that’s for sure.”

Note — CSTV will air “Dog Days,” a program examining Navy’s offseason workout program, at 7:30 p.m. before carrying tonight’s game at 8.

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