- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 17, 2007

It wasn’t entirely obvious who Navy would turn to when savvy attackman Jon Birsner graduated after last season.

After several stops and shifts since leaving high school, Bruce Nechanicky is doing a fine job of providing an answer.

Nechanicky has six goals and five assists this season as the No. 4 Midshipmen have jumped to their second straight 5-0 start.

“There isn’t any pressure from the coaches, but from myself I guess there’s maybe a little pressure to fill his shoes a little bit,” Nechanicky said. “But I think I’m coming along nicely.”

Nechanicky took a while to get to this juncture. He graduated from Good Counsel in 2003 but didn’t attend the top summer camps and still wanted a chance to play in Division I. Nechanicky caught Navy’s eye after a year at the Bridgton Academy in Maine, and went on to spend a year at the Naval Academy Prep School.

He shifted to midfield when he arrived at Navy last season but moved back to attack when Birsner departed. Nechanicky delivered the first hat trick of his career in Tuesday’s victory 13-5 over Canisius in Annapolis.

“He’s a little bit different kind of guy,” Navy coach Richie Meade said. “Jon was a high-risk, high yield guy at times and Bruce is very efficient with the ball. He doesn’t get as many assists and he doesn’t see the field the way Jon did, but if you look at how Jon did as a sophomore, Bruce is doing very well.”

Nechanicky and the Mids have an interesting task today against Holy Cross (2-4, 0-3) in Dallas at Southern Methodist’s Ford Stadium. Navy is playing its first game in Texas since a 1971 victory over Johns Hopkins in the Astrodome.

Looking in the mirror

Maryland goalie Harry Alford started taking shots this week as he continues to recover from offseason shoulder surgery. His replacement, freshman Brian Phipps, has done a remarkable impression of the start of Alford’s career as a starter as the No. 10 Terrapins prepare to play host to No. 19 UMBC (3-2) today.

Phipps, who made 16 saves in last week’s 8-7 victory against Towson, has allowed 46 goals and made 75 saves in 355 minutes in his first six starts, good for a 62.0 save percentage and a 7.78 goals against average.

Alford, who memorably made 25 saves against Georgetown in 2005 in his first career start, also yielded 46 goals and stopped 75 shots in his first six starts to produce an identical 62.0 save percentage.

However, he played an extra minute in the stretch, dropping his goals against average to 7.74.

And as for the most important stat? Maryland started 4-2 in both seasons.

Unbeatens dwindle

Both Johns Hopkins (2005) and Virginia (2006) emerged as perfect national champions the last two years, but the chances for a third straight unbeaten winning a title are decreasing each week.

Only five teams — No. 1 Cornell, No. 4 Navy, No. 6 Albany, No. 18 Yale and unranked Fairfield — are still perfect just a month into the season. Of that group, only Cornell and Navy were ranked in the top 10 in the preseason.

Albany is the most curious team of the bunch. The Great Danes (4-0) already have upended Johns Hopkins, Delaware and Massachusetts to build a potentially impressive postseason portfolio. Their only remaining test against a current top-15 team is an April 20 visit to Syracuse.

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