Dec. 19, 2013
Article by Gary Lambrecht
For USNA Wave Tops
On 21 September, the Navy men's soccer team earned a 3-0 victory over George Washington to improve its record to 2-3-2. That same day, Gavin Snyder '14 came off the bench to replace injured goalkeeper Aaron Dupere '14. Little did Snyder know that the Midshipmen would take off under fifth-year coach Dave Brandt. Navy won 15 straight games, including its first Patriot League tournament, and notched its first NCAA tournament victory since 1971 with a 3-0 win over VCU before falling to Wake Forest 2-1 in the second round. In the middle of the nation's longest winning streak was Snyder, a team captain, company commander, future submarine warfare officer and product of nearby Severna Park High School. Snyder was an integral part of a Navy defense that produced 11 shutouts during the Mids' incredible two-month run. Writer Gary Lambrecht recently caught up with Snyder, who made the most of his last go-round in a soccer uniform by setting school records for solo shutouts (10), goals-against average (0.37) and an NCAA-best save percentage of .917.
Q: When you took over the goalie position, could you sense anything this special might happen?
A: It was pretty amazing the way we just woke up. We knew it was coming because we came into the season with a hunger and so much talent. It was a long time overdue for us to click. There was a point when we just knew we were going to win. It was only a question of how and when we were going to do it. We knew we were going to beat you.
Q: Can you point to what turned things around?
A: After we lost to High Point [dropping Navy's record to 1-2-2 on September 14], some of the seniors went into our coach's office and had a meeting with him. They basically told Coach Brandt that we can't keep doing this. We have to start winning. Then, we went to UMBC and lost in double overtime. That was the turning point in our season. I don't know how my replacing Aaron correlated to our team's success. Our back line and midfield were incredible and we got great pressure from our [forwards] up top. All of those records that I set? Those really are team records.
Q: What's it like playing for Brandt?
A: He's definitely a guy who is always pursuing excellence, and he knows how to bring us together. Everything you see on the field is Coach Brandt's style and soccer brain being portrayed.
Q: You started the season opener in 2011 and lost to VCU 4-1, and it took a year to regain the starting job before you lost it to Dupere again last summer. Was your sophomore year a humbling experience?
A: Aaron is a much better goalkeeper than I am, and it was extremely unfortunate that he was plagued by injuries. When I came in as a freshman, there were things I had to change. There is a lot of fine-tuning that goes into playing that position. You have to focus so much on footwork. You have to learn to shuffle your feet more and make the hard saves look easy, instead of making a glorious diving save because your footwork is bad. That loss to VCU was my worst performance ever as a goalie. My confidence really didn't start to come up until last year.
Q: Is it true that playing goalie requires someone who is a little crazy?
A: I always tell people that field players are the crazy ones. They spend their time chasing after the ball, and I let the ball come to me. I just stand there.
Q: Still, there is certainly a level of danger associated with the position. What's the most painful thing that ever happened to you?
A: I've been lucky to get away with a lot. There are the occasional clips in the head when you get down where all of the feet are. The worst [incident] was my junior year at Severna Park. We were playing Broadneck High School [in Annapolis] in a regional semifinal. I went up to catch a cross. When I jumped in the air, somebody cut my legs out from under me, and I came down hard on my shoulder and broke my collarbone. I went over to one of my [teammates] and asked him to pop my shoulder back in because I thought it was just a dislocation. He said, "No, I'd better not."
Q: Broadneck was one of your big rivals growing up in Anne Arundel County. [Navy senior midfielder] Guy Skord came from Broadneck. Did you guys fall in line easily as Navy teammates?
A: We played on the same rec team for two years, and we kept in touch as rivals in high school. We ended up at the same Navy [soccer] camp, and we think there was one moment that got us both recruited. [Skord] hit a ridiculous volley and I got a hand on it to save it. Coach Brandt was watching.
Q: And now, here you are, with a great, unexpected senior season behind you, and you're primed to graduate in May and be commissioned as a submarine warfare officer. Does your head spin when you contemplate the way things have worked out?
A: Coming here was a blessing that kind of fell into my lap. I grew up around here, but if you had told me in the ninth grade that I would come to the Naval Academy, I would have said, "Hmmm." If you had told me as a senior I would be a company commander and a captain on the soccer team, I wouldn't have believed you. This place has allowed me to grow a lot.