ANNAPOLIS, Md. – It was junior midfielder David Jackson with the game-winning goal on Wednesday night, as the Navy men’s soccer team closed out the regular season with a 1-0 postseason-clinching shutout over American at the Glenn Warner Soccer Facility.
The win secures the Midshipmen a spot in the Patriot League tournament and gives them their first postseason home game since 2019, as No. 4 seed Navy will host No. 5 seed Lafayette at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 5.
Navy ends the regular season at 5-4-8 overall and 3-1-5 in league play, while the Eagles enter the postseason at 6-6-5 overall and 3-4-2 in PL action.
“I am proud of this team tonight and this season,” said head coach Tim O’Donohue. “For us to get a much-needed win and shutout after a tough ending against Loyola, it showed a great amount of character from our guys. We are excited to be able to play at home this Saturday, and we’re looking forward to having a great crowd under the lights.”
The Mids applied offensive pressure from the start of the match, as freshman forward A.J. Schuetz had three shots, and freshman defender Jalen Grant added a header that missed the net in just the first 15 minutes of action, while Schuetz had a goal called off due to being offsides at 7′.
Sophomore winger Noah Ward recorded the first shot on goal in the 27th minute. He had another on-target shot under two minutes later, forcing AU goalkeeper Matthew Tibbetts to stop both chances. In comparison, the Navy defenders held the Eagles to just three blocked shots and one off-target shot over the opening 45 minutes.
After American’s Zemi Rodriguez missed the cage on his shot 32 seconds into the second half, Navy was able to control possession in the 49th minute, which led to a Ward rush into the 18-yard box, where he was taken down by Damian Search well. With a penalty kick called, Jackson stepped to the line and powered a shot to the left post, beating a diving Tibbetts and notching his team-leading sixth goal of the season.
Schuetz tried to extend the lead at 64,’ but Tibbetts saved the shot to the left post. Ward had another chance at 75′ that Tibbetts denied, setting up American’s Jack Green to put a shot on-target about a half-minute later that Navy sophomore goalkeeper Pierce Holbrook stopped after that ball deflected off a defender on the way in.
American generated six more shots in the final 10 minutes of play, including Holbrook stonewalling Evan Schweickert in the 85th minute and Mattias Cooper having back-to-back shots blocked at 88′. Still, Navy was able to turn away each one and saw senior forward Kevin Hileman almost add an insurance goal at the 89th minute that Tibbetts smothered before time expired.
“That was a gritty game tonight, for sure,” said Jackson on the ESPN+ broadcast. “The goal from the start of the season was to get a home game in the playoffs, and it feels fantastic to get that. We’ve known from the start that we can make a run, and we’ve had a lot of unfortunate draws, but we know how not to lose, so we have that going for us going into the postseason.”
Holbrook’s two saves earned him his fifth shutout of the campaign and his third clean sheet in league play, while Tibbetts ended the night with five saves in the Eagles’ net.
Jackson’s 4-for-4 mark on penalty kicks this season puts him as one of seven players in the NCAA to be perfect on four-or-more penalty kick attempts.
With Wednesday’s result, this marks only the sixth time Navy has finished the regular season with fewer than two Patriot League losses since joining the conference in 1991. It is also the fourth-straight season that Navy has finished above .500 in league play.
Shots were even at 14-14, but Navy had the 6-2 edge in shots-on-goal while AU had an 8-6 advantage in corner kicks.