Plenty at stake for Navy and Army in women's soccer match

On paper, it should be a rout.

Navy (15-1-1) hasn't lost since its opener and boasts the nation's second longest unbeaten streak in women's soccer. Army, meanwhile, is a disappointing 6-9.

Navy coach Carin Jennings-Gabarra has been there 20 years and celebrated her 250th victory at Annapolis this season. Army's coach resigned in June, handing the team to an interim.

But the Mids say that won't matter when the teams square off in West Point at 7 p.m. on Friday.

"Honestly, Army's record means nothing," said Navy defender Kahra Kelty (Arundel). "This is just like when the schools play football."

Navy's lone defeat was a 3-0 loss to No. 7 Maryland in its season opener, a game that was delayed by lightning for nearly two hours.

Lightning hasn't struck twice for the Mids, who reeled off 15 straight victories before playing Colgate to a 1-1 tie last week in a contest between the Patriot League co-leaders.

The tie "wasn't necessarily a bad thing," said sophomore forward Morgan Dankanich, Navy's top goal-getter (10). "Colgate made us realize that we're not unstoppable, and that we have things to work on.

"Not that we'd have let (our record) go to our heads, anyway, with Army next."

Last year, at Annapolis, Navy fought back from a 2-0 halftime deficit to defeat the Black Knights, 3-2, in the regular season on Dankanich's late goal. But when the schools met again for the league championship — and an NCAA tournament berth — Army prevailed, 2-0.

"That sucked. Losing to them in the finals was the worst feeling ever," junior forward Ashlynn Soellner said. "I still have a grudge about that."

Soellner's 24 points lead Navy, which has won nine games by a single goal — five of them in the 88th minute or later.

"We've had our struggles, but this team has more heart than any I've known," Soellner said. "We're very deserving of where we sit right now."

A Navy win tonight could boot Army right out of the playoff picture, an option not lost on the revenge-minded Mids.

"The chance that we might end their season early gives us even more motivation," said sophomore forward Caprice Kelty who, with her twin sister Kahra, grew up three miles from campus.

"I've coached sisters before, but never twins until now," Jennings-Gabarra said. "It took awhile to tell them apart, but they're quiet, they work hard and they've been a great attribute to this team."

Jennings-Gabarra, 47, has been Navy's coach from the start in 1993. A one-time All-American, she set NCAA scoring records at Cal-Santa Barbara that were broken by fellow Olympian and World Cup star Mia Hamm.

The coach has led the Mids to 18 consecutive winning seasons, three NCAA tourney berths and a cumulative record of 252-113-34. In 23 games against its archrival, Navy leads Army, 11-10, with two ties.

"This group puts 'team first' as much as any that I've had here," Jennings-Gabarra said. "And I guarantee you that all they're thinking about now is Army. They are playing this game for something much bigger than themselves. That's inherent, in a storied rivalry like this."

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