ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Playing its third game in eight days, the Navy women's soccer team continued its winning ways as the Mids defeated Lehigh on Saturday night by a score of 2-1. With first place in the Patriot League South Division standing in the balance, the Mids (3-4, 3-1 PL, 3-0 PL So.) received first half goals from Victoria Tran (Jr., Clarksville, Md.) and Jeana Freeman (So., Raleigh, N.C.) on their way to knocking off the Mountain Hawks (1-2-2, 1-2-2 PL, 1-1-1 PL So.) at Glenn Warner Soccer Facility. The victory by Navy clinched the Patriot League South title, as well as the 350th win in program history.
"Scoring early always helps you play more relaxed, more focused and into the flow of the game," remarked head coach Carin Gabarra about Navy's first half success. "I think the important thing about tonight's game was that we've now played three games in a short-span of time, at three different venues with three completely different playing surfaces and we came out with three wins. We've found a way to adapt and play different styles of soccer in order to get through this run of games. I still think we have better soccer ahead of us with a week of training and no midweek game; that should enable us to get back into our style of play. I'm super proud of the effort and really thrilled for our seniors to get a win and to clinch the division title on Senior Night."
Saturday night's game began with fast-paced end-to-end action as the Mountain Hawks tested the Mids' goalie Mattie Gallagher (Fr., Gilbertsville, Pa.) with a corner kick and header connection 88 seconds into the contest. On the ensuing possession for Navy, Carolyn Mang (Jr., Forest Hill, Md.) ripped a shot that sailed just over the net. After another five and a half minutes of soccer, the Mids registered their first shot on goal in a loud manner as Tran found the back of the net at 7:47. Starting in the midfield with Kristina Dzhandzhapanyan (Diamond Bar, Calif.) dribbling into the attacking third, the senior team captain slotted a pass to the top of the box towards Jenna Daunt (Fr., Haymarket, Va.), who quickly redirected the ball with a flick into space where Tran charged in and beat Lehigh's goalkeeper low and to the right.
With the score 1-0 in favor of the host Mids, the Mountain Hawks turned up their offensive pressure with multiple dangerous corner kick chances. Gallagher was up to the task as she batted away a corner kick in the 20th minute before pushing away a Courtney Supp shot two minutes. In total, Lehigh tallied four corner kicks between the 20th and 36th minute. The final corner kick resulted in an Imani Ashman shot towards goal that Gallagher and a multitude of teammates helped clear away.
Surviving that rush of Lehigh opportunities afforded Navy the chance to expand its lead in the 41st minute when the team worked the ball up the right wing. After Chloe Dawson (Fr., Fairfax, Va.) gathered the ball near midfield, she played the ball to Caitlin Doran (So., Queens, N.Y.), who dribbled towards the end line before whipping a cross into the box where Freeman cut in front of a Mountain Hawk defender for a one-time shot past the on-coming goalkeeper at 40:18.
"Our focus during the pandemic has been on our depth, it's based off of the Naval Academy's next-man up mantra," remarked Gabarra. "Everyone here has a role and everyone here has played a part in every win; it's taken every member of our roster. We've had some injuries force players into different roles throughout this season. Our players have been great at stepping up and getting the job done. Our depth has been extremely important and has allowed us to rotate players and get spots of rest in key moments of the game."
At halftime, Lehigh was out-shooting Navy, 6-4 with a 3-2 advantage in shots on goal.
In the second half, the Mids held their two-goal lead for the initial 40 minutes, though the hosts received a pair of high percentage looks courtesy of Molly Gillcrist (Jr., San Diego, Calif.). In the 56th minute she tackled the ball away from a Mountain Hawk defender and immediately rifled a shot that went wide of the net. Less than five minutes later, she put her attempt on frame and forced Lehigh's Miranda Royds to make the save.
The Mountain Hawks cut the Mids' lead to one at 85:09 when Chloe Tremblay netted a goal.
Navy didn't allow Lehigh to get any closer of the final 4:51 to collect the 2-1 victory.
For the game, Lehigh outshot Navy, 10-9, while the Mountain Hawks tallied five shots on goal versus three for the Mids. The visitors recorded seven corner kicks versus one for Navy.
The victory was the 350th in program history in its 28 years of action. Navy's first win came on Sept. 9, 1993 against Johns Hopkins. Gabarra has led the Mids in all 350 victories.
Saturday's win also clinched the Patriot League South divisional title and hosting duties in the Patriot League Semifinals on Wednesday, April 14. Navy will take on the second seed in the Patriot League South division that day.
Prior to the game, the Mids' three-member Class of 2021 was honored in a Senior Day ceremony. The program recognized Dzhandzhapanyan, Emily Keast (Springfield, Va.) and Molly Swiger (Johns Creek, Ga.), who have been a part of 46 wins and four Patriot League Tournament appearances beginning with the 2017 season.
"I'm thrilled for our seniors," said Gabarra in closing. "It's been a weird year for them. They're just happy to be playing games. After training all fall and being given the opportunity to play from our athletic director and our medical staff to get games in both the fall and spring seasons; the opportunity to compete has been wonderful for them. Their leadership and devotion to the program and their ability to keep people focused on what's coming next has been phenomenal. I'm so happy to have gotten a win for them on their day."
Navy will close out its regular season next Friday, April 9 with a home tilt versus American. Kickoff between the Mids and Eagles is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Glenn Warner Soccer Facility.