First a recap of the previous teams in the rankings:
22. Men’s Soccer
19. Men’s Track and Field
18. Women’s Basketball
16. Men’s Basketball
15. Women’s Lacrosse
13. Women’s Soccer
12. Men’s Cross Country
11. Women’s Track and Field
9. Water Polo
And now, the top seven:
7. Women’s Swimming – On the surface it would seem that the women’s swimming team should be the #1 ranked team on this list. After all, they had a 14-0 dual meet record including a convincing 211-84 victory over Army. However, the Mids failed to win the Patriot League crown, losing to Colgate for the second year in a row. And they also finished fifth at the ECAC Championships. Also hurting their ranking here was their weak strength of schedule which did not include one ranked team. But this team definitely deserves its props because just three seasons ago, they were a very mediocre 6-7 against a similar schedule. So it was definitely a very good year, but just not a great one.
6. Rifle – Finally a sport the future leaders of the Navy and Marine Corps should be expected to be really good at! And Navy sure does not disappoint - unless of course they are up against any team that hails from Alaska. What is it about rifle teams in Alaska? Well, whatever it is, Navy has a hard time beating them. The Mids, however, did manage to beat their arch-rival gunslingers up the Hudson…for the first time in three years. Overall, the team finished 17-1 on the year – the most wins in school history. A lot of rifle followers could probably make a good argument that this Navy team could easily be one of the top two or three teams in these rankings, but losing to Alaska lowered them down a few notches. I know Alaska is perennial champions in this sport, but come on!
5. Women’s Cross Country – For those of you not familiar with how team scoring works in cross country, take a look at this link. Those are the results from this season’s Patriot League Championships. I wanted to point that link out because sometimes when people hear that Navy scored 23 points, they do not understand what type of dominance that represents. Navy’s entire team (7 runners) actually finished ahead of three entire teams in this meet. You heard me mention Amy Watson before…well here I go again. She won the individual title which helped the Mids win the championship outright for the first time in team history. Navy had a similar performance earlier in the year against Army, winning their annual dual meet quite easily, 15-48. It was the biggest blowout ever in the series. Next year, Navy should even be better with six of their best seven runners returning…including Watson.
4. Men’s Lacrosse – As I have mentioned before, the whole notion of doing this countdown started when I saw someone post on a GoMids.com message board that Richie Meade should be fired following Navy’s defeat to Duke in the first round of the NCAA tournament. I don’t think any Navy fan was happy with the team’s performance in that game or in the Johns Hopkins game; however this Navy team had a great year despite how it ended. Navy’s performance in the Patriot League Tournament will be long remembered as the Mids avenged both of their league losses earlier in the season with victories over Colgate (9-8) and Bucknell (9-8). That means for the season, only three teams went 1-0 versus the Mids (Duke, Hopkins and North Carolina). All three of those teams reached the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament. What does all of this mean? To me it means, Navy plays a quality schedule and wins its share of those games; they are a constant figure in the Top 15 rankings, and if not for two early, tough losses, this season could have been really special. In addition to the great run in the Patriot League Tournament, Navy put together three quality wins late in the season that included wins over Maryland and Army.
3. Football – Truth be told, if these rankings were looking at the overall state of a program including its ability to attract fans and generate revenue, there would be Navy football at #1 and every other sport listed after a big gap on the page. Football, like on most college campuses, is king at Navy. However, and this might shock some Navy fans who only tune in to Navy sports on Saturdays in the fall, the football team did not have the most successful season in Annapolis. Having said that, what wasn’t to like about the Mids’ 8-5 season? The Ken Niumatalolo era at Navy got off to an impressive start as Navy retained the Commander in Chief’s Trophy by using special teams to help beat Air Force, 33-27, and by using a stifling defense to shut out Army, 34-0. Other season highlights included beating a ranked Wake Forest team; a historic comeback to beat Temple in overtime; and a gutsy win over Rutgers.
2. Men’s Swimming - I may have to tweak the criteria next year because it was painful to not rank this amazing team #1 overall. They got the slight nod over football because of their #27 ranking in the country and their success in the post-season (won both the Patriot League Tournament and the ECAC Championship). They even avenged an earlier defeat in the season to #20 Harvard by out pacing them in the ECAC Championship. And since these rankings really begin and end with how you fare against Army, Men’s Swimming has set the standard for dominating the Cadets, and this season was no exception. A 214.5-85.5 whipping should give Army plenty to ponder in the off-season…although they did improve upon 2007’s thrashing at the hands of the Mids (231-69). Folks, that’s just not fair.
1. Sprint Football - Navy sports fans could probably debate forever whether or not this sport should be even be included in these rankings. However, if you decide that sprint football should be considered a major sport at the academy (it is listed as one on Navysports.com), then they must receive strong consideration as having the best season in 2008-09. The spring football team went 7-0, won the league title, and outscored their opponents 202-59, which included two victories over Army. Winning is nothing new for the Navy sprint football team as their all-time record is a ridiculous 303-62-9. They have won 16 games in a row (last loss was to Cornell in 2006); their last loss to Army was in 2003; and in 2007 they beat Princeton 83-0. Sure, there are only five teams currently playing in the CSFL (Collegiate Sprint Football League), but Navy also schedules junior varsity teams just to keep things interesting. Based on the criteria I established for these rankings, it was hard to rank this team any lower. If you beat everyone that you can possibly schedule, what more can anyone ask of you?