Davis Sets the Tone for Navy Men's Soccer
Sept. 18, 2013
By Matt Muzza
Navy Sports Information
Zach Davis has a commanding presence on the soccer field.
The 6-foot, 190-pound senior defenseman keeps the team's defensive shape and is one of the last players protecting Navy's goal. As the team captain, he is the player that fifth-year coach Dave Brandt utilizes to anchor the team's defensive efforts.
"Zach is the organizer of the defense's shape and he's looked to as our leader," Brandt said. "He is an entrenched key player for us, both on and off the field."
Davis is an intense player who is leading a Navy soccer program that is on the verge of a breakthrough season. He is also eight months away from graduating from the Naval Academy and beginning a career as a naval officer.
But today Davis isn't the same person that arrived in Annapolis for plebe summer in July of 2010. Davis has matured both physically and mentally and he has been molded and developed by his coach, his teammates and the Naval Academy as a whole.
"I've definitely matured and I've definitely grown," Davis said.
When Davis began his career in 2010, the men's soccer program was in a state of transition. Davis was a member of then-second-year head coach Dave Brandt's first full recruiting class and was looking forward to being a part of a new chapter of Navy men's soccer.
"I thought it would be exciting to try to come here and help build something," Davis said.
After having just one winning season in the seven years before Brandt took over, Davis and the Class of 2014 experienced three straight seasons of .500 or better soccer heading into their final year.
As a freshman, Davis looked up to the older players who had stuck with the program during the coaching change. In 2010, Navy had just six juniors or seniors in captain Sam Lepley, Will Craven, Alex Foskett, Sam Miller, Wes Powell and Billy Sweetman.
"Those older guys did a really good job of just putting aside all of their personal goals or personal opinions and just working for the team," Davis said. "Their world had changed and a lot of their friends weren't on the team anymore but they all just put the team first. It was impressive to see how they dealt with that."
That team-first approach has stuck with Davis and he has incorporated it into his own leadership style as the captain of the Navy men's soccer program. Davis feels that the nine-member senior class is ready to set a strong example for the rest of the team.
"I am proud that the guys voted me captain," Davis said. "But it is definitely something that needs to be shared throughout the team. All of our seniors show leadership skills and the whole team is ready to buy in and stick together."
Davis knows he is taking on a larger responsibility in his role as the team captain and Brandt sees him as a strong leader.
"I think Zach has an intensity about him both on and off the field that players recognize and respect," said Brandt. "When Zach has something to say, he'll say it, and he commands attention pretty quickly."
Davis' intensity makes him a force on the field and the focus he puts into his academics also makes him successful in the classrooms of the United States Naval Academy.
Davis carries a 3.54 grade-point average as an oceanography major. He has been named to the Superintendent's List three times and the Dean's List once. He has also been named to the Commandant's List in all six of his semesters at the Academy.
Last fall Davis received CoSIDA Academic All-District First Team honors. Davis earned a 4.00 grade-point average during the fall semester and made a third straight appearance on the Patriot League Academic Honor Roll.
Like all student-athletes at the Naval Academy, Davis must manage his time to the best of his abilities to be successful on all fronts.
"Having good time management skills has really been important," Davis said. "I know everybody says it, but it's true. You just have to be committed and you have to be able to get the work done that you need to do."
Davis has also embraced his military responsibilities while at the Naval Academy. Among 1,098 classmates in the Class of 2014, Davis ranks 38th in Military Order of Merit.
Davis' strong all-around resume will help him in his future role as a military officer. He is hoping to service select Navy pilot.
Davis' father, Jonathan, is a colonel in the Air Force and is currently stationed at the Pentagon. The Davis family moved around a lot while Zach was a child. Davis was born in Brookings, South Dakota and he has lived in Alabama, California, Colorado, Florida, Montana and Virginia.
He played high school soccer in Colorado and his parents currently live in Maryland where they are able to be close to him in his final year at the Naval Academy.
His father did ROTC at South Dakota State and Davis considered going the ROTC route before he looked into attending the service academies.
Davis was building a strong playing resume during his high school and club days while Brandt began recruiting him to Navy. He was an all-state player at Pine Creek in Colorado who scored 26 points on 12 goals and two assists as a senior. He won the 2008 PSA World Youth Tournament Title with his club team and he also played with an Olympic Development Program.
"He brought a very high level of club experience here," said Brandt. "He was on a national championship club team and he was a 'good get' for us on a lot of different fronts."
Upon arrival in Annapolis, Davis stepped right into a starting role on the team in his freshman year in 2010. He started the first five games of the year on the defensive backline and helped Navy to a 7-5-4 record.
The following season in 2011, Davis helped Navy return to the Patriot League Tournament for the first since 2001. Davis led the team with 1,537 minutes played and started 15 games.
Davis also picked up his first individual playing accolade during the 2011 season. Davis was named the Patriot League Defensive Player of the Week after helping Navy to a 1-0 shutout of archrival Army. Davis and the Navy defense held Army to just four shots and the Mids earned a third straight win against the Black Knights.
It was an historic win for Navy, as it was the first time the program had won three straight games against Army since 1962-64.
Navy went 3-2-2 in conference play in 2011 to earn the fourth seed for the postseason tournament. The Mids battled with top-seeded American and after 110 minutes the score was deadlocked at 0-0 and the game was sent to penalty kicks.
Davis, just a sophomore at the time, was called upon to take the third penalty kick and he beat the goalkeeper, but American eventually held on to win the shootout, 4-3, and advanced to the tournament championship.
Davis was named to the Patriot League All-Tournament Team for his efforts on the defensive end and in the shootout against American.
With the bulk of his senior season still remaining, Davis thinks back at the 2011 Patriot League Tournament as being one of his fondest memories of playing soccer at Navy.
"Making the tournament was something that we hadn't done in 10 years," Davis said. "Even though we lost in the semifinals, it was nice to get there and we really want to get back."
Davis helped Navy to a third straight season of .500 or better soccer as a junior in 2012 as Navy posted a 7-7-3 mark
Davis continued to play a key role for the team and once again led all field players in minutes played while starting 16 games. Davis was named to the Holiday Inn Express All-Tournament Team for his play in a 2-0 shutout victory over Robert Morris.
The center back also helped the program earn several monumental wins in 2012.
Navy defeated 20th-ranked George Mason, 2-1, in double overtime for its first win against a ranked opponent since 2007. George Mason had entered the game at 6-0-0 and was playing in front of its home crowd.
The Mids also beat eventual Patriot League Tournament champion and NCAA participant Lafayette, 4-2. It was the first time that Navy had defeated the perennially strong Lafayette program since 2001.
Following the Lafayette game, Navy downed Pittsburgh, 3-1, for its fourth straight win.
The Mids played at a high level at many times during the 2012 season and showed what the program is capable in the future. Davis and his teammates will look to build on that success in 2013.
"Our goal is always to make the Patriot League Tournament," Davis said. "But I think that is below what we expect of ourselves. I think we are capable of more than just making the tournament."
With a strong group of returning players and a solid incoming class, Navy could be on the verge of a breakout season. The program played a challenging spring schedule and played well against high-quality competition to prepare for the fall season.
"Overall I think the chemistry of the team is heading in the right direction," Davis said. "We've thought that before but we really believe it this time. A lot of guys have committed and understand that it takes a fair amount of work and most people are truly dedicated to doing that."
Navy went 2-2-1 this past spring and earned victories over two 2012 NCAA Tournament teams. Navy defeated VCU, 1-0, and beat Cornell, 3-2. Navy had a 2-2 draw against Harrisburg City of the USL Professional Division and fell to West Virginia, 3-2, and Penn State, 2-0.
"We had a great spring," Davis said. "We came out .500 against a top-25 schedule and we felt it could have been even better."
Davis will play an important role in translating the success of the spring to on-field success this fall. His senior leadership as the team captain will be a critical element for the team this season.
"I've had the chance to see a lot of people in various leadership roles and I've taken the best of it," said Davis. "I know the teammates will look at me in a new way, just as I have done in past years with our different captains."
Davis is a well-rounded individual who excels with his military obligations, he is a veteran leader on the men's soccer team and he excels in the classroom.
"Zach is a good student and he performs well in his company," said Brandt. "He is serious about all of his obligations and he gets what it takes to succeed at the Naval Academy."
Not only is Davis serious about his obligations, but his intensity and focus will set the example for the culture of the Navy men's soccer team under his leadership this fall.