ANNAPOLIS --- Five things to take from Navy's 11-7 defeat of Detroit on Friday at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium ...
1. Navy's midfield is much improved.
It is dangerous to draw too many conclusions from this game. After all, the Midshipmen (2-0) will see tougher tests in its upcoming three-game swing to Fairfield, Georgetown and Bucknell.
But one thing seems obvious: Navy is vastly more developed and dangerous in the midfield.
"Our midfield is phenomenal this year," attackman Tucker Hull said. "We've got size, we've got speed, we've got kids who can run down an alley and shoot the ball. It's definitely freeing up some options, especially dodging from the attack having those guys open up top for sweeps. It's really a game-changer for us."
The Mids had five midfielders score one goal each on Friday, and three of those scores were unassisted. The shooting was pinpoint, and the ability to create a shot was considerably better compared to how Navy's midfield sprayed the ball around the last few years.
Better defenses will be able to scout the likes of Gabe Voumard and Sean Price and Erik Hoffstadt more effectively with more film, and more physical defenses will make it tougher to get shots.
Still, the Mids have some options in the midfield for the first time in a while.
"I've been telling people since the fall that I felt like we had some middies that can put pressure on the goal this year," coach Rick Sowell said. "Certainly our first midfield, but our second midfield I think are going to contribute more than we anticipated back in August and September."
2. Navy's enjoyed a solid start at the faceoff X.
The numbers look only slightly above average for the Mids, who were 12 of 22 for the game at the X. But starter Evan McGoogan was 10 of 15, and received substantial help from long pole Pat Kiernan.
A week ago, it was Sean Reilly who thrived for Navy at the X. The question mark still isn't solved, but since Navy has won 29 of 52 faceoffs in its first two games there are no complaints from Sowell.
"It's going to be week by week and the hot guy and it might be a matchup we try to take advantage of," Sowell said. "Evan got us off to a good start."
3. The defense gave Navy three good quarters.
Detroit attackman Shayne Adams, a clever Canadian who will be a terror in the Metro Atlantic this season, had only one goal entering the final two minutes of the third quarter. The rest of his teammates had one in that span as well.
Adams eventually broke loose, scoring at the end of the third and adding two goals and an assist in the final period as Detroit turned an 8-2 game into something a bit more respectable.
"We got a little lackadaisical in the fourth quarter and it's something we have to fix up," Kiernan said. "But overall, I thought it was a good effort."
4. It wasn't a banner night on offense.
Navy probably isn't going to score 20 goals much, if at all, after hitting that plateau in the season opener against VMI.
Going with a fairly vanilla offense out of the chute didn't do the Mids any favors. It took nearly a quarter for Navy to score once, and the Mids didn't seize the lead until more than 20 minutes in.
"I think our guys thought it was going to be as easy to score as it was last week," Sowell said. "Some of the shots we took and some of the possessions in the first quarter weren't the prettiest."
It wasn't an efficient night by any stretch. Navy committed 26 turnovers, including 12 in a frightfully unwatchable third quarter. But it did shoot nearly 30 percent (11 of 37), and that's not dreadful for an early-season game.
Then again, it wasn't exactly great, either.
"Offensively, I would consider that a loss for us. ...," Hull said. "We just went into that game very flat and stayed that way."
5. Alex Heyward played a much more prominent role in the defensive midfield than in the opener.
The sophomore, who played significantly more in the second half of last season, was used sparingly in the Mids' season opener.
That wasn't the case Friday, when Heyward teamed with Cade Norris as Navy's primary short stick defensive midfield.
That was an area of trouble for the Mids for much of last season. It figures to be better this spring, though how much better remains to be seen, and Heyward will be a key now that he is out of a doghouse of sorts.
"We weren't happy with him recently and we had to shake things up a little bit and that's what led to him not playing as much as we expect him to play," Sowell said. "He rebounded and had a good week of practice. Hopefully we have him squared away, Between him and Cade, we're improved in that area."
--- Patrick Stevens