ANNAPOLIS, Md. (NNS) -- Competitiveness. Mentality. Fitness. Team chemistry.
These are the aspects women's soccer coach and 1996 Olympic gold medal-winner Carin Gabarra feels contributed to her team's record-breaking season.
"Most importantly, our senior leadership was a major factor," she said. "They work hard to help each other earn more time on the field."
Seniors Nadia Sheikh, Kara Hardebeck, Kristen Hansen and Marie Kissil were recognized for their contributions to the team in a ceremony Nov. 4 before their match against Robert Morris.
Sheikh, the team's captain and Navy's all-time career assists leader, has been playing soccer since the second grade. She hopes to become a surface warfare officer (SWO) after graduation, but never anticipated a career in the Navy.
"I didn't know (the academy) existed until I was recruited for soccer," she said. "I visited and loved it."
Hardebeck didn't know about Navy soccer until she was recruited, either. She started playing soccer at age 5 and also plans to pursue a career in surface warfare.
Kissil and Hansen began their soccer careers at age 6, and agree that they are both "a little sad to be leaving." Kissil plans to become a SWO, while Hansen, the "lone non-SWO in the group," plans to become a naval aviator.
The team boasts many top-notch players, including juniors Stacy Finley and Amelia Sheveland, the team's top scorers. Finley was recently named the Patriot League Offensive Player of the Year for the second straight year, and Sheveland was named to the All-Patriot League Second Team with sophomore goalkeeper Kim Bonafede. Finley, Sheikh and Xochitl Piedra were named to the First Team.
Finley, who hopes to join many of her teammates in the surface warfare community, started playing soccer at the age of 5. "I knew I wanted to play in college, but I didn't know which school."
She has always played soccer. Sheveland, on the other hand, "weeded through many other sports," including a year on Navy's track team, but decided to concentrate on soccer.
Unlike Sheveland and Finley, sophomores Piedra, Stephanie Parker and Emma Hagen all participated in other sports, such as basketball and track. Hagen "just played soccer for fun" most of her life, until she ended up at the academy.
They still have time to decide what career paths they hope to follow, but Piedra hopes to be a part of explosive ordnance disposal, or EOD, and Hagen is looking to the skies for her goal of "flying Navy." Parker, on the other hand, said, "I'm waiting to see what happens after summer training."
Until the team's defeat in the first round of the Patriot League tournament, Navy was only one of two undefeated teams in the nation, and the only undefeated team for 24 hours after Charlotte lost during the Conference USA tournament.
While they did not receive the at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, the team can be happy knowing they broke several school records, including shutouts.
The team can also boast a 19-game unbeaten streak and the lowest goals allowed average as a team, as well as Bonafede's individual record for lowest goals allowed.
With the youngest defense in the country and several nationally-ranked and league honored players, Navy women's soccer is staying strong and ready for the challenges of next season.
"I couldn't be happier," said Gabarra.
For related news, visit the United States Naval Academy Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/usna.