Before getting to #17 - #13, here is a recap of the bottom five teams on the list from last week:
22. Men's Soccer
19. Men's Track and Field
18. Women's Basketball
And now on with the countdown…
17. Wrestling – You have to go all the way back to the 1977-78 season for the last time Navy's wrestling team finished with a losing record, so on the surface it would seem that this year (7-9) was a minor disaster. However injuries to several key wrestlers had a huge impact on the final dual match record. Moreover, Navy excelled when they faced Army, a 26-9 thumping in their dual match, and then beat they beat the Cadets again in the All-Academy Championship – where they also topped Air Force. The team also boasted two All-Americans in Bryce Saddoris and Joe Baker which helped to take some of the sting out of some tough team losses.
16. Men's Basketball – Navy's overall record of 19-11 sounds pretty good, especially considering where they were just a few years ago. However, their schedule outside of conference play helped pad the victory total. Seven wins came over Howard, St. Francis, William & Mary, Maryland Eastern Shore, Penn, Canisius and Elon. Those opponents combined to go 67-144 on the season. The Mids' best win out-of-conference probably was against Radford, who would qualify for the NCAA tournament and finish with a 21-12 record. Navy's best out of conference performances though came in two tough losses to Villanova (78-68) and Virginia Tech (79-70). In the conference, Navy finished in third place with a respectable 8-6 record which included a win and loss against Army. However, most fans will remember this season for how it ended – with another first round loss in the Patriot League Tournament…their eighth consecutive loss in the quarterfinal round. Oh, what Navy fans would give for this most deserving team to end that streak in 2010.
15. Women's Lacrosse – The record (13-5) is extremely impressive for a team in only its second year of existence. However, Navy's women lacrosse team has a long way to go to enter into any type of discussion on the national scene. As a matter of fact, the entire Patriot League is still light years behind the major players in lacrosse as was evidenced by Maryland's thrashing of Colgate in the first round of the NCAA tournament. That is the same Red Raiders team that humbled the Mids 17-4 in the Patriot League Tournament final. However, Navy DID advance to the championship game this season, and that alone is reason for optimism. I believe head coach Cindy Timchal can make Navy a Top 20 team in the next five years. Maybe by then Army will field a varsity (instead of a club) team.
14. Golf – If one were to name a movie after the Navy golf team it would be called, ‘Searching for Billy Hurley.' All you have to do is look at this page to see what type of impact Hurley had on the sport in his senior campaign way back in 2004. Since then the team has had some success including this season when they finished second in the Patriot League and beat Army in a thrilling, sudden-death match. The future is still bright for the Mids as they may have their best prospect on the team (since Hurley) in freshman Peter Reilly (sixth in Patriot League Tournament). Will Navy ever pose a challenge to the elite in the sport like Stanford and Oklahoma State? No, but they are consistently one of the best teams in the Patriot League and that's pretty good for a school that has no business attracting any professional talent, but on the rare occasion does.
13. Women's Soccer – When I first started to sketch out these rankings, I have to admit that I immediately put this Navy team near the top of the list. One could make a serious case that the women's soccer program is one of the most popular programs at the entire academy and furthermore, they have enjoyed a ton of success over the past few years. Coach Carin Gabarra is a gem and the Mids should be thrilled that such a prominent and capable leader is in charge of their program. However, the team couldn't beat Army in the regular season (tied) and lost to them in the Patriot League Championship this year and that hurt their ranking significantly. Overall the team went 15-4-3, including 5-0-2 in conference play, and the future is as bright as any team on this list. I originally had the golf team ranked higher since they beat Army, but my gut instinct told me that the women's soccer program is slightly ahead of them overall.