ORANGE BEACH, Ala. -- On the eve of second round games at the NAIA Women's Soccer National Championship, Westmont Women's Soccer was honored with the NAIA Champions of Character Team Award.
The award, which was presented at the NAIA Women's Soccer Championship Final Site Banquet in Orange Beach, Alabama, is given annually to one team from each championship sport that exemplifies the NAIA Champions of Character five core values of integrity, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship and servant leadership.
"Our team has represented the five core values in many different ways this season," said Westmont head coach Kristi Kiely. "We made a commitment in August that win or lose we would run clinics after most of our home conference games. Integrity and Responsibility to that commitment helped us see it through and Servant Leadership was talked about with the youth following the clinics as a reason why we play - it gives us the opportunity to serve."
The clinics after home games were an outgrowth of the team's trip to Africa at the end of last school year.
"Our women initiated, organized, and fundraised for a team trip to Kenya and Uganda in May of 2013," said Kiely." We spent a total of 16 days partnering with Sports Outreach Institute in Nairobi, Kampala and Gulu. Sports Outreach uses soccer as a tool to reach communities and serve in creative ways. They feed hundreds of children in each city with a daily feeding program and have a farm in Gulu committed to rebuilding the war-torn region through sustainable development.
"Our women served alongside these committed indigenous men and women and witnessed hardship on a scale many had never experienced. Each night we processed the good, bad, and difficult of each day and together challenged and built each other up. The dividends this fall have been immeasurable.
"I have never seen a team with such a great perspective on the place of athletics relative to the issues plaguing our world; who also have committed themselves to giving their all on the pitch for each other because they have seen the joy, the power, the relationships, the walls broken down through the common language of soccer. Even if we had not had the on field success we have this season, the character revealed and built through the student-athlete led trip was worth it."
"Character is a primary and foundational commitment of our team," said Westmont senior captain Jenny Martinez. "At Westmont, we get our training packets the first week of June. Within these packets, workouts, weight training, and fitness times are all included. But before these sections, there are expectations laid out for not what our team will do, but who we will be.
"Regardless of how we do on the field, regardless of injury or health, regardless of personal success or frustration, we commit to who we will be as individuals, and therefore as a cohesive group of twenty-six players. It is important to incorporate character into team dynamics because when we agree to common standards of character, we cease striving to pursue twenty-six individual ideas of success, but instead agree to pursue a single shared standard."
The second-seeded Warriors (15-1-4) will take on No. 15 Martin Methodist of Tennessee (16-5-1) in second round action on Monday at 1:00 p.m. CST/11:00 a.m. PST. The winner of tomorrow's contest will advance to play the winner of the No. 7 Davenport (Mich.)/No. 10 Cumberland (Tenn.) game in the quarterfinals on Wednesday.
Martin Methodist defeated Trinity International (Ill.) in the opening round to advance to the second round. The RedHawks qualified for the championship as the runner-up in the Southern States Athletic Conference Tournament.
The only common opponent this year between Westmont and Martin Methodist was Westminster (Utah). The RedHawks defeated Westminster 2-0 on September 13 in a neutral site game at the Lindsey Wilson Classic. Westmont tied Westminster 2-2 in the NAIA Championship Opening Round on November 23, and advanced to the second round on penalty kicks (4-1).
The RedHawks are led in scoring by midfielders Taylor Samsel and Jennifer Loewen who have each tallied 13 goals. Junior midfielder Lauren Badalamente has added another nine goals for Martin Methodist.
Goalkeeper Aisling Dyer of Ireland has allowed 16 goals in 19 games and has posted a goals-against average of 0.950.