Saturday's 2-1 win against Loyola cemented the Navy men's soccer team's first Patriot League regular-season championship since 1991. To coach Dave Brandt, it is a nice accomplishment, but it pales in comparison to a greater prize.
"I think it has to be muted," Brandt said Wednesday morning of the team's reaction to capturing the regular-season crown. "That's great to do that. Ultimately, we’ve got another regular-season game and the bigger deal is to win the Patriot League playoff championship. So I really think it has to be kept in perspective."
The Midshipmen improved to 12-3-2 overall and 8-0 in the conference. Nationally, they are beginning to attract some attention as they received one vote in the most recent National Soccer Coaches Association poll.
Navy has already claimed the No. 1 seed and the right to play host to the Patriot League tournament semifinals (Nov. 15) and final (Nov. 17) by virtue of winning the regular-season title. But the championship is just a temporary carrot, Brandt said.
“It’s only a reward in the sense that there’s a sense of accomplishment and you get to play the playoffs at home,” he said. “Other than that, I think it’s a false sense of anything, I really do. I’ve been through this enough and I understand it. If your goal is to win the regular-season title, then you’ve reached your goal. But if your goal is to win the Patriot League championship and advance to the NCAAs, then you haven’t reached it yet, and you have to be very careful at how you look at this.”
The Midshipmen will tangle with archrival Army (12-2-2, 6-1-1) Friday night at PPL Park in Chester, Pa. The outcome won’t impact the teams’ standings in the conference tournament.
“We’re [No.] 1 and they’re [No.] 2, and nothing’s going to change that,” Brandt said. “It’s an unusual dynamic, but at the same time, it goes without saying that it’s a huge and fierce rivalry. So I think everything goes out the window, and it’s a huge game for us, and it’s a huge game for them, and I know it will be tightly contested, for sure.”