ANNAPOLIS, Md. – A goal from freshman forward A.J. Schuetz in the 83rd minute was all the offense Navy needed to claim the 2022 Patriot League Men’s Soccer Championship on Saturday night at Glenn Warner Soccer Facility, as the fourth-seeded Midshipmen shut out sixth-seeded American, 1-0, for the program’s second-ever league title.
Saturday marks the first league title by the Mids since 2013, clinching the league’s automatic berth in the upcoming NCAA Division I Men’s Soccer Championship.
Navy improves to 7-4-9 overall and will now head to the NCAA Tournament for the 12th time in program history, while the Eagles end their season at 8-7-5.
“It’s surreal, I’m just so proud of this team,” said Tim O’Donohue following his first league title as Navy head coach. “All season long, they never gave up and were a tough team to beat. When people said we kept tying, I said ‘Yeah, but no one has beaten us over the last month’. These players deserve all the credit. Tonight, I thought we came out with a quality start to the second half and played our game well over the final 45 minutes. Them putting up another clean sheet made me proud of us defensively while A.J. proved to be a game-changer tonight on offense.”
A standing room-only crowd watched American get an early opportunity from Robbie Matei’s off-target shot in the fourth minute, but the Mids got their own chance early on when junior winger Jason Aoyama put a shot on goal from outside the 18-yard line that AU goalkeeper Matthew Tibbetts had to scoop up.
The Navy defense then was able to turn away three AU shots before sophomore goalkeeper Pierce Holbrook stonewalled a chance from Nevin Bear at 24′, while senior midfielder Sam Kriel nearly gave the Mids a first-half lead when his long-range shot went just over the crossbar in the 36th minute.
Coming out of halftime, Holbrook knocked down a Mattias Cooper shot at 49′ before Aoyama had another chance from 20 yards out in the 55th minute that Tibbetts denied. Holbrook made another key stop at 72′ when he punched out a shot from Bear that was going for the top-right corner of the net.
Schuetz made his mark in program lore at 83′, as he took a pass from sophomore defender Charlie Kriel into the left side of the penalty box, with his cross deflecting off an American defender and redirecting towards the right post past Tibbetts, giving the rookie his second goal of the campaign.
With the Navy defense limiting the Eagles to one off-target shot in the final eight minutes, Holbrook sealed the title in the 90th minute when he leaped up just off the right post to snag a deep Zemi Rodriguez pass.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Schuetz. “In my freshman year, I never would have thought this would’ve happened, but this team had so much fight, so much grit, you saw it until the final whistle.”
The three saves earned Holbrook his eighth clean sheet of the season, moving him into a tie for third all-time for Navy goalkeeper shutouts in a season, while Tibbetts ended his night with a pair of saves.
American held the edge in shots, 9-4, and in corner kicks, 9-1. Two of the least-fouling teams in the country, both sides wrapped the evening with nine fouls.
Navy moves to 8-7-5 all-time in Patriot League Tournament games, improving to 1-1-1 against American in the postseason and shifting to 2-3-0 in championship matches.
The Mids extended their unbeaten streak to five games, while the program has not lost to a Patriot League opponent at Glenn Warner Soccer Facility since October 23, 2021.
Junior defender Zach Wagner was named the Patriot League Tournament Most Valuable Player, with junior midfielder Cristian Coelho, Holbrook and Schuetz joining him on the league’s 11-member All-Tournament Team.
Navy finds out its opponent and the full tournament bracket on Monday, Nov. 14 during the NCAA Selection Show. This year’s selection show will be streamed on NCAA.com starting at 1 p.m. ET. NCAA Tournament play begins with the first round on Thursday, Nov. 17.