Navy women's soccer team could not have started the season off with a more frustrating loss.
The Mids welcomed then-No. 13 Maryland to their field on Aug. 17 for a showdown of the top teams in the state and found out quickly it would be a long match.
Terps midfielder Becky Kaplan started the game off quickly scoring the first of her two goals in the 15th minute, and Navy was unable able to recover. Kaplan scored again in the game's 58th minute, and teammate Alex Reed sealed the deal with the Terps' third and final goal 20 minutes later.
The loss ended up becoming the spark for an impressive season as Navy went on to claim a 19-game unbeaten streak, the longest current streak in the country. The Mids now hope to carry that success into the postseason as they enter the Patriot League Tournament on Friday as the No. 1 seed.
"We found that a lot of our focus is what killed us in that [loss to Maryland]," sophomore forward Caprice Kelty said. "I think we upped our focus up, and I think we haven't lost it since then. I think that was the biggest issue, and we also worked on a lot of things that didn't really show up in that game.
"I think they're coming together now, which is why we're doing so well."
Caprice and twin sister Kahra Kelty (Arundel) have been a big part of the Mids' historic run, that has included the team's longest unbeaten streak in its history and the program's best winning percentage (.925).
Caprice said that she had looked at all the military academies being the most familiar with the military because she lived around it, while her mother was in the Air Force. When it came to Navy, Caprice said she loved everything about it.
Kahra, the oldest by 2 minutes, said she attended the Naval Academy for the opportunity to play on a Division I team and to give herself a challenge academically and athletically.
"Surprisingly we were trying to go to different schools," Kahra said. "We've always been the twins, 'Hey twin, Hey twin,' not really ever being called by our names, just the twins. So I think at first we were trying to go to different schools to make our own paths in life, but surprisingly we came to the same school.
"I'm actually really happy we went to the same school, because we go through the same thing, so we can talk about it whenever we get a chance."
Said coach Carin Gabarra: "The United States Naval Academy is a different place and a different institution. The kids don't come here because they settle where they are. The kids come to a leadership institution like Navy because they always want to continue to get better."
In her sophomore year, Kahra ended the regular season at outside defender on a strong note. She finished fourth in minutes for the second consecutive year, and anchored a backline that allowed an average of 2.88 shots on goal when the Mids held their opponents scoreless.
Down to the last game of the season, in which Navy (18-1-1, 6-0-1 Patriot League) clinched the regular season championship with its ninth shutout over visiting Bucknell (10-9-0, 3-4-0), the Mids have been relentless on defense.
When the ball made it by Navy's stingy defenders, the goalies stepped in to average 2.88 saves.
"[As someone who's a part of the defensive backline] it's great that all our efforts are coming out in a positive way," Kahra said. "At the same time, there's things that we can improve…[such as] not letting in goals in the future…and just always being ahead of the attack of the other team."
On offense, Caprice has played half the minutes her sister plays, but has made the most of her time scoring three goals and adding two assists this season. Her eight points is tied for sixth on the team. Caprice has helped a Navy offense that has scored 36 goals this season.
"In the game, if we're on a low part, I just try to make a difference [and] to get some more energy in the team," Caprice said. "Maybe if we're in a rut, [I] just try to change it up a little bit. If I can make it even better, like even higher, I try to."
Playing against the Mids has become one of two very different experiences for their opponents this season.
It has either been a never-ending, offensive onslaught, or it has been a frustrating, defensive chess match, with Navy coming out on top in all but two of these games — the loss to Maryland and a 1-1 tie at Colgate on Oct. 12.
The result meant the Mids earned the right to host the conference tournament in Annapolis for the fourth time in the program's history.
"We've got a quality team, and we've found a way to get results amongst a lot of different adversity — you know different games, different styles of play," Gabarra said. "We've slowly gotten better throughout the season, which is a great thing. We're starting to peak [and] we're starting to bring our defensive end and our attacking end together."
Navy will play fourth seed Lehigh in the semifinals Friday at 7 p.m. The Mids won their regular season meeting against Lehigh, 1-0 in overtime, and expect another tough battle.
"It'll be a great game," Gabarra said. "Lehigh is a quality team. They play a good attacking style of soccer. … We're excited, we're happy to be home, 'cause we're on our home field, we're in our home routine, [and] we'll hopefully get a good home crowd.
"It's a quality team, and we know once it gets this far to the tournament any of the four teams is very capable of winning."