- The Washington Times - Monday, October 30, 2006

ANNAPOLIS — Bucknell authored a sad chapter yesterday in the otherwise inspiring story of Navy’s women’s soccer team.

The Midshipmen entered the regular-season finale as the only unbeaten and untied team in Division I soccer. But their bid for perfection ended on a blustery day on the banks of the Severn River as Bucknell upset No. 14 Navy 2-1.

With the win, Bucknell gained the right to play host to the Patriot League tournament, which begins Friday in Lewisburg, Pa. The tournament champion receives an automatic NCAA tournament bid.

“We’re usually able to rebound, but we weren’t there today,” Navy coach Carin Gabarra said. “It was bound to happen. I would rather have it happen now than maybe in a later game where it’s even more important.”

But despite a 19-1 regular-season record, there’s no guarantee Navy will receive an NCAA at-large bid because the Mids’ relatively easy schedule will come under scrutiny of the tournament selection committee.

“The whole season has just been awesome,” said forward Meggie Curran, who scored the game’s first goal with a 30-yard, wind-aided bomb from way outside the top of the box that gave Navy a 1-0 lead in the sixth minute. “The chemistry on the team has been the best in my four years here. It stinks having lost the last game, but I think it will be good for us because it will now really test our character. … We hope for an [NCAA] at-large bid, but if we win the final, we can make sure no other team from the Patriot League is going to the NCAAs.”

No one, from the academy’s highest-ranking admiral to the last incoming plebe, could have imagined the Mids steamrolling through the season. Before yesterday the Mids had outscored opponents 66-3. Two of those three goals were allowed by backup goalkeepers during garbage time, and none came in conference games.

Navy’s conference shutout streak came to an end just before halftime when Bucknell midfielder Nicole Marotta headed in a corner kick just inside the left post in the 43rd minute. Bucknell’s Krista Lee Gentile scored the game-winner in the 69th minute when she knocked in a ball Navy goalkeeper Lizzie Barnes punched back to her in front of goal.

Asked whether she thought yesterday’s loss would affect Navy’s chances to secure an NCAA at-large bid, Barnes replied, “I don’t care.”

While the emotional loss might have taken a toll on Barnes, this kind of season has been brewing for some time. Although Navy’s football and men’s lacrosse teams garner most of the headlines, Gabarra has built a consistently strong program.

When she arrived in 1993, Navy had just introduced women’s soccer as a varsity sport. Gabarra has posted just two losing seasons since — her first two. Her 2003 team became the first women’s team in any sport at Navy to advance to the NCAA tournament.

As a player, Gabarra was a U.S. national team standout and became the NCAA’s all-time leading scorer with 102 goals and 60 assists in 1987 at UC Santa Barbara. North Carolina’s Mia Hamm broke that mark in 1993.

On the international stage, Gabarra led the U.S. women to their first world championship in 1991 and played on the 1996 U.S. Olympic gold medal-winning team in Atlanta. In addition, she was U.S. Soccer’s female player of the year in 1987 and 1992.

In 1999, Gabarra was named to U.S. Soccer’s Stars of the Century team — a roster that includes the best 11 players in the history of women’s soccer in this country.

Women’s soccer runs deep in the Gabarra family. Her husband, Jim, served three seasons as coach of the Washington Freedom in the defunct Women’s United Soccer Association.

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