After mediocre campaigns in six of the last seven years, the Navy men's soccer team is enjoying considerable success this fall.
The Midshipmen are 9-3-2 overall and 5-0-0 in the Patriot League. They are 5-0-0 in the conference for the first time in school history, are tied with Army for first place in the league and need only to beat Holy Cross (6-5-1, 4-1-0) Saturday night to clinch their second berth in the last three Patriot League tournaments.
"This is my fifth fall, and this has been a good team the last couple years," coach Dave Brandt said as the team traveled Friday morning to Worcester, Mass. "Soccer's a funny game. I think a lot matters in terms of how you play and it's been a very good team the last couple years. I think it's taken us this long to learn how to win."
Navy opened the season with one win, two losses and two ties. After a 2-0 loss to High Point on Sept. 14, Brandt and players decided to participate in a series of meetings.
"No less than nine guys came to see me in my office on the Monday after we dropped to 1-2-2, some individually and some in groups," he recalled. "We had good discussions about being tired of being an average team from a results standpoint and what it would take to put our foot down and get some positive results."
The Midshipmen dropped their next game – a 3-2 double-overtime decision to nationally-ranked UMBC on Sept. 17 – but that was their last loss of the season, as they have reeled off eight straight victories.
"We lost our next game to UMBC, but it was in overtime and was a little bit of an unfortunate loss," Brandt said. "I thought we showed extremely well against an excellent UMBC team. So these last nine games, I think we’ve been a different team, a team that has matured a lot and was ready to get some results."
Extending that win streak to nine – which the program has not achieved since 1966 – is not expected to be easy against a Crusaders squad that has won three consecutive games and four of its last five. And while the memory of that loss to UMBC is more than a month old, it's not that distant to Brandt.
"We still remember what it feels like," he said. "So we're hoping to avoid that feeling again. But it's good to win this number of games on the go. It's been a little bit over a month since we've had to deal with that, and it's a good thing."