Navy has won 20 of its last 24 home openers.
Saturday's game is presented by Navy Mutual.
Navy will hold its annual Meet the Mids autograph session following Saturday's game.
Navy's 13 seniors will play their final collegiate game when the two programs face off at 1:00 pm at Byrd Stadium.
The Mids haven't played a team ranked No. 1 in the country since 2005.
Navy vs. Boston U. MLax - 2.25.17
Navy-Maryland MLax 2.11.17
2015 Navy vs. Johns Hopkins MLax
2015 Navy vs. Bucknell MLax
2014 Navy-Colgate MLax
Last season, the Mids closed out the season ranked #22 nationally in scoring defense, allowing 9.57 goals per game. Leading the way for the defense were Third-Team All-Americans Chris Fennell and Matt Rees. Fennell is one of just 37 players in program history to be named an All-American at least three times and the first since Jordan DiNola in 2006-07-08. Fennell also graduated as the first player in league history to be named the Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year. Fennell went on to win the NAAA Sword for Men, which is presented to the midshipman of the graduating class to have personally excelled in athletics during his years of varsity competition.
Rees, meanwhile, stood #8 nationally in caused turnovers per game (2.07) in 2017 and graduated aas the program’s all-time leader with 84. One of the best transition players in recent memory, Rees also graduated with 19 points on 15 goals and four assists, posting more points and goals than any other long pole or close defenseman in Navy history.
Another pupil who enjoyed an outstanding senior campaign was faceoff specialist Brady Dove, who closed out his career as the program’s record holder in career faceoff wins (637), single-game faceoff wins (21, 2x in 2017), single-game faceoff wins at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium (21, 2x in 2017), career ground balls (348), single-season ground balls (100 in 2017) and single-game ground balls (17 in 2017). He was ranked #3 in the country in faceoff percentage (169-254, 66.5) in 2017.
In 2016, Wellner helped orchestrate a defensive unit that was one of the best in the country. Ranked #2 nationally in scoring defense, the Mids held their opponents to 7.38 goals per game. It’s the ninth time Navy has finished among the top five since 2000 and its best finish since leading the country with its 5.47 average in 2006. The 7.38 average was Navy’s lowest since 2008 when it gave up 6.50 goals per game. Navy (16 gms), Monmouth (14 gms) and Detroit (12 gms) allowed the fewest goals in the country last spring with just 118. The Mids gave up double-digit goals in six of its 16 games in 2016.
Anchoring the defensive unit were 2016 Goalkeeper of the Year John Connors, Second-Team All-American and two-time Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year Chris Fennell and Third-Team All-American long pole Matt Rees. Connors finished #2 nationally in goals-against average (7.25), the lowest GAA by a Navy player since 2007 when Colin Finnegan stood third nationally with a 6.46 GAA. It’s the highest a Navy player has finished in the rankings since Matt Russell led the nation with a 5.45 GAA in 2006. Connors also owned the nation’s ninth-best save percentage (56.8). It’s the highest finish by a Navy keeper since 2010 when RJ Wickham posted the fifth-best average (59.3).
Meanwhile, Rees (#16, 1.63), Fennell (#30, 1.44) and short-stick defensive middie DJ Plumer (#36, 1.38) finished among the top 40 nationally in caused turnovers per game. It’s the first time in school history Navy has achieved that feat.
Spearheading the faceoff game once again was Second-Team All-Patriot League selection Brady Dove, who won 57.9 percent (158-273) of his draws overall and 65.0 (93-143) in Patriot League play. He finished the year ranked 17th nationally in faceoff winning percentage. The sixth game into the season, Dove became the program’s all-time faceoff wins leader (468) and has distanced himself from previous record holder Chris Pieczonka (2002-05) by 105 wins. He is the first player in school history and only the ninth in Patriot League history (25 yrs) to reach 400 faceoff wins. Dove also broke Navy’s career ground balls record (248).
In 2015, Navy’s defense gave up 8.57 goals per game and was ranked 13th nationally. It was the fewest goals the Mids’ have allowed since 2009 when they surrendered under 8.00, while its ranking was its best since finishing 2010 ranked 13th with its 8.67 average. Additionally, Navy’s defense caused the eighth-most turnovers in the country, posting 8.07 takeaways per game. It’s the second time in the last three seasons Navy has finished the year among the top 10 in the country in caused turnovers. The cog in the wheel of success for the Mids’ defense in 2015 was sophomore Chris Fennell, who was named the Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year and a Third-Team All-American. He is just the second Navy player to earn the honor and the first since Jordan DiNola in 2008.
Meanwhile, First-Team All-Patriot League faceoff specialist Brady Dove took his game to a higher level. Dove finished eighth nationally with his 62.6 winning percentage, the highest a Navy player has ranked since 2007 when William Wallace finished fourth with a 64.2 winning percentage.
In 2014, Dove anchored a faceoff squad that won 55.9 percent of its draws to rank 18th in the nation. Individually, Dove won 56.4 percent of his draws and was ranked 20th in the country. Meanwhile, anchored by 2014 Honorable Mention All-American long stick midfielder Pat Kiernan, Navy surrendered 9.36 goals per game game to rank 20th.
In 2013, the Midshipmen finished No. 2 in the country in caused turnovers, averaging 10.00 per contest led by starting defenseman Austin Miller who was seventh nationally with 2.31 takeaways, while Kiernan stood 12th with 2.00 caused turnovers. Navy also improved in ground balls, jumping from 43rd in 2012 to 29th in 2013, which stemmed from the play of the defense. Averaging 5.23 ground balls per game and ranked 32nd in the country, Kiernan was active both on offense as well as the wings of faceoffs.
In 2012, he guided Navy’s man-down unit to a No. 8 nationally ranking, as the Mids allowed just 10 extra-man goal all season (.750). The previous two seasons the Mids had been ranked 29th and 36th. Meanwhile, the defense as a whole improved and was ranked 14th nationally after surrendering 8.92 goals per game. Senior RJ Wickham anchored the defensive efforts from the goal where he was ranked ninth nationally in saves per game (11.25) and 10th in save percentage (.570).
Wellner joined the Navy staff in the summer of 2011 after a three-year stint alongside Sowell at Stony Brook where he primarily worked with the defense and the Seawolves’ faceoff game. In his three seasons at Stony Brook, the Seawolves produced a 32-14 record (.696), including an impressive 15-1 mark in America East action. The Seawolves captured the America East regular-season title in 2010 behind a 13-4 record and punched their ticket to what was only the program’s second NCAA Tournament appearance (2002) by way of defeating Albany, 11-7, in the America East Championship Game. After dropping a 14-8 decision to UMBC in what was the first America East contest of 2009, Stony Brook has won 15-consecutive regular-season America East contests.
Wellner helped develop long stick midfielder Steven Waldeck into a three-time America East selection as well as 2009 Honorable Mention All-American. Waldeck finished his career with a school-record 112 ground balls and was ranked fifth nationally in ground balls per game, averaging 6.59. Additionally, he was the nation’s leading scorer among all long poles in 2009.
He was instrumental in improving the Seawolves’ faceoff game, as Adam Rand evolved into one the country’s premier draw specialists. In 2010, Rand won 61.6 percent (266-432) of the faceoffs he took 266-432, the third-best percentage in country, while his 432 attempts went down in the record books as an NCAA record. He won 29 draws against Siena on Feb. 20, 2010, which are the second-most wins by an individual in NCAA history, before taking 28 faceoff wins at Binghamton on April 17, 2010, the NCAA’s third most victories.
Prior to his arrival at Stony Brook in 2009, Wellner spent the 2008 campaign as the men’s assistant coach and defensive coordinator at Washington & Lee, helping lead the Generals to a 9-6 record. He also served as the defensive coordinator for three seasons at the Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey where he helped guide the Ducks to a pair of NCAA Tournament berths. Wellner’s defensive units produced a pair of All-America defensemen and ranked among the Div. III top 10 in scoring defense.
A 2000 graduate of Mary Washington College with a bachelor of science in business management, Wellner also served as an assistant coach at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (2004) and Chaminade High School (2003). Additionally, he was the Director of the New York Lacrosse Academy and served as the Director of Operations for the National Lacrosse League from 2001-2003.
A four-year letterwinner at Mary Washington, he served as captain of the lacrosse team his senior year and earned the school’s Outstanding Senior Award in 2000.
Wellner, and his wife, Kate, are the parents of sons, Griffin and MacGregor, and daughter, Ashley.