As painful as Sunday night’s 2-1 loss to No. 14 seed Wake Forest in the second round of the NCAA tournament was, the Midshipmen advanced to the second round for the first time since Nov. 23, 1971 when that squad defeated South Florida, 3-1.
That has to account for something, right?
“Sure, it was definitely a good season for the program and for the guys,” coach Dave Brandt began Monday morning. “But moral victories are tricky ground. I don’t think anybody in athletics wants that or ever plays for that because it’s dangerous ground. I think the fight last night was to believe that we could go to Wake and win. To a certain extent, we did and maybe to a certain extent, we weren’t sure. It’s difficult stuff to judge. But either way, moral victories ring kind of hollow for everybody, not just us. I don’t know too many people who are building on a moral victory. But I think the experience will be good for us. The next time we’re in that situation, we’ll remember. We’ve been there.”
Navy (16-4-2) may have been the hottest team in the nation, while the Demon Deacons were 1-2-1 in their past four games. But the Midshipmen played their fourth game in 10 days, while Wake Forest played for the first time since a 1-0 loss to Virginia in the first round of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament on Nov. 12.
“Wake’s a good team, and they’ve been a good team for a long time,” Brandt said. “They’ve got great players, some of them from this area. At the same time, I did not feel like we were sharp, as sharp as we could’ve been. We were way in that game. I think we were fighting a little bit of fatigue. I had to tug our guys on a little bit to keep going. So as good a season as we’ve had, I was a little disappointed in that.”
Next year’s Navy squad will look vastly different from the current version. Six starters will graduate in the spring.
They include goalkeeper Gavin Snyder, who set single-season records in save percentage (.917), goals-against average (0.37) and shutouts (10); midfielder Martin Sanchez, who led the team in assists (10) and tied for second in points (14); forward Dave Arnold, who ranked second in assists (6) and fourth in points (12); and defenders Nick Dubee and Blake Busse, who started every game but one.
But Brandt declined to lower the bar on next season’s team.
“Every situation is different, and I don’t know if anyone next year wins 15 games in a row,” he said. “So it’s important that we don’t compare ourselves in that way, but this team could win the Patriot League next year. This team could go to the NCAAs next year, no doubt about it.”