ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Navy freshman attackman Sam Jones (Annapolis, Md.) made his debut in front of his hometown crowd a memorable one, scoring five goals to lead the Navy men's lacrosse team to a 14-8 victory over VMI in both teams' opener Saturday afternoon at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. The five goals by Jones are the most by a Navy player since Taylor Harris unleashed for six against Holy Corss on March 26, 2006, and ties as the second-most goals by a Mid during head coach Richie Meade's 17-year tenure at the Academy.
"I've been dreaming about coming to the Academy and playing lacrosse since I was probably four years old," said Jones, who is a third-generation Navy lacrosse player. "My grandfather (Jack Jones, a 1954 graduate who was the `54 recipient of the Kelly Award), nor my father (Dave Jones, a 1982 graduate who was the captain of the lacrosse team his senior year) pressure me. It was just something I always wanted to do.
"I was more anxious than nervous," admitted Jones about his start in Saturday's opener. "But having played with Tucker (Hull) and Harrison (Chaires) at NAPS, we have a good chemistry so that made me feel more comfortable. Our middies did a good job of moving the ball and I just happened to be the one open. For a guy that's dreamt about this since he was four or five, it's a pretty cool feeling."
Jones, however, wasn't the only Navy rookie to have a successful collegiate opener. Fellow starting attackman Tucker Hull (Charlotte, N.C.) scored one goal and dealt out assists on three others, while Ellicott City product Harrison Chaires turned in a goal and an assist and Austin Heneveld (East Hampton, N.Y.) pumped an extra-man strike late in the third. In sum, Navy's rookie class accounted for 12 points with eight goals and four assists.
The Mids also saw junior midfielder Nikk Davis (Cockeysville, Md.) score a pair of goals, while a relatively unknown junior Taylor Reynolds (Babylon, N.Y.) got the opportunity he's long waited for at attack and capitalized. Not only did Reynolds score his first-collegiate goal, he also produced his first-career hat trick in what was his first-career start.
"This is what I've been waiting for," said Reynolds, who played alongside Ryan O'Leary and Matt Bitter as an invert middie group his freshman year and was predominately used as a rider in his sophomore season. "Matched up with two freshmen out there, it's really a huge leadership responsibility and one that I'm more than happy to take on. To get a chance to not only show what I can contribute, but also start a game is really a dream come true."
While Navy's offense seemed to be a well-oiled machine, it seemed to take a quarter of play before the Mids were truly settled on both sides of the field. In fact, after the first quarter of play, the game was locked up at 4-4 and two of Navy's goals were scored on extra man.
"I think there was some concern about getting into a game where we might get impatient or frustrated," said Meade, who has directed the Mids to win in 10-consecutive season openers. "They put some pressure on our offense early on and I thought we did a good job of handling it. Once we got through the first quarter, I think we were able to gain control in second."
Navy, indeed, was the dominant team in the second stanza, outscoring the Keydets 6-2 to take a 10-6 at intermission. It was during that quarter that Navy's attack was nearly unstoppable, scoring all six goals. Jones, in particular, was stellar, scoring three goals in the period, including a goal where he was falling down and was surrounded by three defensive players.
The Mids cooled off a bit in the second half, scoring just four goals, but the damage had been done. Additionally, Navy's defense held its ground and kept the Keydets off the scoreboard for roughly 15 minutes, giving up a goal at the 2:23 mark in the second and not again until 2:07 in the third. Meanwhile each team punched in a goal in the fourth quarter.
Although VMI won just two more faceoffs than the Mids, the Keydets got instant offense from draw specialist Stephen Robarge. The Preseason All-American scored twice against Navy keeper RJ Wickham (Penn Yan, N.Y.) after gaining the ball off procedure calls. Navy's Logan West (Berlin, Md.), however, finished the day winning 11 of the 18 faceoffs he took, one of his finest days at the faceoff "x" as he was just one win shy of tying his career high for wins.
Defensively, sophomore Peter Rogers (San Diego, Calif.) made his debut where he paced the Mids with four caused turnovers and grabbed three ground balls. Freshman Pat Kiernan (Ridgewood, N.J.) was also strong in his collegiate debut, pacing the Mids in ground balls with six and causing three turnovers.
"The defense made a lot of mistakes and there were probably four goals that we gave up and shouldn't have," added Meade. "I think it was a really good effort and while a lot of things went well for us, there's a lot that we can improve upon."
The Midshipmen will be back in action next Saturday when they travel to Baltimore to battle Loyola. Navy will look to avenge last year's loss in which Cooper MacDonnell punched in his sixth goal of the game with just nine ticks left in overtime to lead the 15th-ranked Greyhounds over the Mids, 8-7. Saturday's game is slated for a 2:00 pm start. The game will not be carried on the radio due to coverage of Navy's men's and women's basketball doubleheader against Army.