In some ways, attackman Sam Jones looks no different from any other freshman on the Navy lacrosse team. Like them, he has a buzz cut that he said was "semi-voluntary." He also is balancing lacrosse with daily duties expected of freshmen, including the memorization of menus for upperclassmen.
But Jones looked nothing like a freshman in the Midshipmen's 14-8 victory over Virginia Military in the season opener for both teams Saturday in Annapolis. He finished with five goals, all in the first half.
Also unlike most freshmen, Jones has an uncommon familiarity with the academy: His father and grandfather played lacrosse at Navy.
"I've been dreaming about this since I was 4 years old," Jones said. "I never really thought it would actually happen. . . . My dad and granddad didn't put pressure on me. So I wouldn't say it was a legacy. It's just something I've always wanted to do."
Jones, a Severna Park graduate, is part of a new-look Navy team. By the end of the first quarter Saturday, six freshmen had entered the game. Jones and classmate Tucker Hull (one goal, three assists) started on attack. It was the first time two freshmen started on attack for Navy since 1996.
Meantime, the Midshipmen's extra-man offense featured four freshmen - Hull, Jones, Centennial graduate Harrison Chaires (one goal, one assist) and Austin Heneveld (one goal). The unit went 3 for 6.
"They have good aptitude," Navy Coach Richie Meade said of the freshmen. "They held their own against the guys at Duke and the guys at Virginia [in scrimmages], even though some of those teams play pretty physical defense."
VMI junior Keith Long (Falls Church) tied the game at 5 with 12 minutes 27 seconds left in the first half. But the Midshipmen ended the half with a 5-1 run; Jones scored three goals in the spurt.
Overall, it was a mixed day for VMI's Stephen Robarge, one of the nation's best at faceoffs last season. He scored two goals to equal his career high. But he won 10 of 21 faceoffs and also was called for unsportsmanlike conduct after he touched the ball with his hand during a faceoff.
"You come into these early-season games a little blind," VMI first-year Coach Brian Anken said. "Navy is so young on the offensive end, and a lot like us they may be trying to figure things out. But there was definitely a great spark from them."
Navy's offense scored even when it mistakenly had five offensive players on the field instead of six. Late in the first half, two members of the first midfield line entered the game; senior Brian Striffler remained on the sideline. Before anyone noticed, sophomore Taylor Reynolds scored for an 8-5 lead.
"From my perspective, the worst thing that can happen is you win 18-3 and everyone says you're unbelievable," Meade said. "No, we're not. We're okay."