The Navy men’s soccer team has already captured its second Patriot League regular-season championship and became the second team in conference history to complete an unblemished league record without a loss or a tie.
Unfortunately, the bottom line is titles, and as the top-seeded Midshipmen (13-3-2) prepare to meet No. 4 seed Bucknell in a Patriot League tournament semifinal Friday at 4 p.m. at the Glen Warner Soccer Facility in Annapolis, there's pressure on the team to reach its first title game since 1999 and its first conference championship.
“I think probably everybody does [notice the high expectations],” coach Dave Brandt said. “I’m not sure we feel it any more than anybody else. I don’t think it necessarily comes from being the favorite. It’s something that hasn’t been done here a long time, which is clearly something that we want to do.”
Navy, which led the Patriot League in scoring (1.7 goals per game) and defense (three goals allowed), will meet a Bison squad that ranked second in scoring (1.58) and tied for third in defense (eight goals allowed).
Bucknell (13-5-1) is 8-0-1 on the road this season and is 5-1 since a 2-1 loss to the Midshipmen on Oct. 19.
“They’re a good team, and I think some of their Patriot League losses were early,” Brandt said. “I think they’ve found a combination that works. They’re not typical [No.] 4 seed by any stretch at all.”
Perhaps one factor to consider is that Navy has enjoyed a seven-day break since ending the regular season with a 1-0 double-overtime win against Army on Nov. 8. Meanwhile, the Bison had to outlast No. 5 seed American, 3-1, on Tuesday.
Asked if the layoff was beneficial for the players, Brandt said, “That was the objective. I hope I’ve done a good job of that. We’ll see tomorrow. I think if you keep playing, you kind of keep your rhythm. If you have a week off, you hope to see them get refreshed and be ready to fight on gameday.”