The last time the Navy men’s soccer program made the NCAA tournament, none of its players had even been born. Although the Midshipmen (15-3-2) will make their first appearance in the tournament since 1988 when they meet Virginia Commonwealth (11-7-2) in a first-round game Thursday, coach Dave Brandt does not think the enormity of the contest will intimidate his players.
Brandt pointed out that Navy has been in playoff mode since earning the top seed in the Patriot League tournament. The team captured its first conference tournament championship under the pressure of knowing that a loss would have meant the end of its season.
“It’s obviously new for us. It’s uncharted ground,” he said Monday of qualifying for the NCAA tournament. “But I don’t think that’s going to be the case. We played in front of 7,500 people at PPL Park [against Army on Nov. 8], and that was a new experience as well. I think if you can get your team to understand that things outside of the game itself are not really all that important, then you have a chance to do what you do best, and that’s just to play.”
Brandt fully expects his players to be amped for Thursday’s game, but he also knows there is a thin line between enthusiasm and overexcitement. Brandt may have to help the team channel its anxiety into positive results.
“I think my approach has always has been one that you have to be as steady as possible emotionally,” he said. “Obviously, you don’t want to be on the wrong side of that line, either way. You don’t want to be too complacent and not up enough or a little bit too anxious. It’s something that’s important as a competitor and as an athlete, but we’re in a run of games, and all of the games have been important to us, and Thursday is just the next one.”Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun