It’s officially summertime at our nation’s service academies. The year is over, graduation is behind us, our newly commissioned officers are on basket leave, and the rest of the Cadets and Midshipmen are off doing summer training all over the globe.
We felt like as we brought the 2018-2019 athletic season to a close, we should take some time to recognize all of the outstanding achievements of our student-athletes this past year, and what better way to do that than by having the first ever AAE End of Year Awards!
We have come up with seven categories that we will reveal over the course of the next week, letting you know the nominees one category at a time before allowing our readers and service academy fans the chance to have a say in who wins each award.
We will put up an article on the Against All Enemies site on June 19th that will have the polls for each award as well as a Twitter poll and will count each of those as 10% of the overall vote. The remaining 80% will come from our eight regular contributors at AAE.
Hopefully this gives everyone a good look back and we keep the competition rolling into the offseason as to which service academy had the best athletes, coaches, and performances this past year!
We will have at least one representative in each category from each service academy, with a few others thrown in and highlight some honorable mentions as well.
I’m up first with Upset of the Year and here are your nominees!
Nominees for Upset of the Year:
Air Force Men’s Soccer Over Denver in NCAA Tournament
The Air Force men’s soccer team is one you will see multiple times in our awards. They had a tremendous year, climbing as high as #7 in the polls, winning 17 matches for the first time in school history, and finishing with a perfect 10-0 record at home.
They capped the season off with an upset victory over then #9 Denver in the second round of the NCAA tournament by a score of 2-1, reaching the third round of the tournament for the first time since 1993.
Led by All-Americans Tucker Bone and Austin Dewing, the Falcons staked claim to a quick 2-0 lead behind goals from Dewing and Klint Parker, and were able to ride their impressive defense to hold off the Pioneers for the 2-1 victory.
It really was a historic season for Air Force men’s soccer, and there was no bigger victory on the year than securing an NCAA tournament upset over a top ten Denver squad!
Army Men’s Lacrosse Over #1 Seed Loyola in Patriot League Tournament
Another team that had an impressive season was the Patriot League champion Army men’s lacrosse team. Entering the tournament ranked as high as 17th in the country, they were the number four seed and wound up taking on the Greyhounds of Loyola in the semifinals.
Loyola had defeated the Black Knights 13-9 at West Point just two weeks earlier, but this time around, Army returned the favor behind one of the best defensive performances of the season from All-American Johnny Surdick. Goalie AJ Baretto did a terrific job in the net with 13 saves, but it was Surdick’s defense against arguably the best player in the country in Pat Spencer that enabled Army’s victory. Spencer was held to zero goals and just one assist on the day.
Freshman sensation Brendan Nichtern had another terrific performance with a goal and two assists, helping him break the Army all-time record in the process, and the Black Knights knocked off the Greyhounds in a tense battle by a score of 7-5.
Navy Water Polo upsets top 15 opponent in Cal Baptist
Navy wins!— NavyWaterPolo (@NavyWaterPolo) October 6, 2018
Navy-14 CBU-11 #RollGoats
The Navy Water Polo team entered the Gary Troyer Tournament in Claremont, California 0-4 on the year against ranked opponents and spent day one dropping two decisions to Claremont Mudd-Scripps and 15th ranked Pomona-Pitzer.
So, the fact that they were able to rebound and knock off the number 14 team in the country was pretty impressive. Behind four goals from Bobby Lee, the Mids saw nine different players score. Ronan Williams was terrific in goal with seven saves for Navy.
Army Hockey Knocks off Mercyhurst in AHC Tourney
ARMY WINS THE SERIES! The Black Knights stay alive in the Atlantic Hockey playoffs with a 5-1 victory over Mercyhurst. #GoArmy #AHF pic.twitter.com/VQNcsy9ARw— Army WP Hockey (@ArmyWP_Hockey) March 10, 2019
Entering the Atlantic Hockey Tournament, the Black Knights were seeded 10th out of 11 teams. The season had not gone the way they had hoped, but that didn’t stop them from putting together one of the better upsets of the year as they knocked off Mercyhurst in two straight games to reach the quarterfinals and take on the #1 seed AIC. They actually got a victory over AIC in that series, pushing them to the brink before falling in game three, which could also be considered pretty impressive given that AIC made it to the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament following their own upset over #1 seed St. Cloud State.
In the Mercyhurst series, game one was an overtime thriller that saw team captain Dalton MacAfee get his first ever multi-goal game, scoring both goals in regulation for the Black Knights. After swapping goals over the first three periods and heading into overtime tied at two, Dominic Franco got a breakaway goal to seal the victory for Army.
Game two saw the Black Knights pour it on in the second period, scoring three goals en route to a 5-1 victory behind three points each from Mason Kreuger and Brendan Soucie.
Air Force Baseball Upends #11 ECU 3-2
BALLGAME!!!— Air Force Baseball (@AF_Baseball) February 25, 2019
We knock off No. 11 ECU!!#LetsFly pic.twitter.com/C5TokUhciY
It was an up and down season for the Air Force baseball team as they finished an even 26-26 on the year. However, back in February fresh off winning the Freedom Classic over Navy, the Falcons went to Greenville, NC and knocked off the Pirates of East Carolina.
ECU was consistently ranked the entire year and made it to the Super Regionals, so for this Falcons team to knock them off this year, it was a big deal.
Behind a terrific split pitching performance from Zach Argo and Nathan Price, they limited the Pirates to just two runs on three hits.
Air Force fell behind 1-0 in the second before a home run from Drew Wiss and an RBI groundout from Gabe Martinez gave them a 2-1 lead in the fourth. ECU would tie it up in the 8th, but Martinez would get into the home run action himself in the ninth, giving the Falcons a 3-2 lead and the victory!
Those are your five nominees for Upset of the Year, but there were a couple other upsets that deserved mentioning.
Army Baseball over Navy in the Patriot League tournament: The Black Knights had already taken the season series from the Mids but Navy was the top seed in the PL tournament. What made this a big upset, though, was the fact that Army was able to give Noah Song his only loss of the season in the first game of the series, before holding on in a back-and-forth third game to win the Patriot League title.
Navy Volleyball over American in the Patriot League tournament: Rest assured, the Navy volleyball team will get plenty of love in these awards, but there is no denying their upset over top seed American in the Patriot League tournament finals was a big one. Having already lost to them twice on the season, and having to face the five-time defending PL Champs on their home court, Navy volleyball took a five set thriller in knocking off the Eagles and heading to the NCAA tournament for the first time!
Hopefully this jogged your memory on some memorable upsets this past year for our service academy athletic teams! The voting will open for the five nominees on June 19th, and once again, the fan vote will count for 20% of the final tally!