KANSAS CITY, Mo. (1-3-2012) - The Mount Vernon Nazarene University women's soccer team has been selected from among all the women's soccer teams at the NAIA level to receive the prestigious Buffalo Funds Five Star Champions of Character Award for the 2011 season.
The Buffalo Funds Five Star Champions of Character Award is selected annually at the end of each sport season. All NAIA teams are eligible for this award. They must be nominated by their institution with the recipient to be announced at the National Championship. The winner is selected based on their documented display of exemplary character and sportsmanship on the field, on campus, and in the community. Specifically, fulfillment of at least one of the core character values of Integrity, Respect, Responsibility, Sportsmanship, and Servant Leadership will be taken into consideration.
The Lady Cougars have been active in many different ways outside the game of soccer with projects. In their "Bigger or Better" campaign, each team member started with a dollar and then went door-to-door in the community exchanging that dollar for something bigger and better as they eventually raised over $2,200 for local children and families in need charities. They collected over 550 pairs of shoes for Soles for Souls, an organization that helps provide shoes for people in foreign countries. They also raised nearly $1,000 in donations at their "Fight Cancer" game. In addition, they held several free soccer clinics for schools and community youth.
In the classroom, the MVNU women's soccer team has been a standout as they received Team Academic Awards from both the NAIA and the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. This past fall, a school-record seven players were chosen as NAIA Scholar-Athletes as junior or seniors with a 3.5 grade point average or higher.
"The key to successful performance is team chemistry," said MVNU coach Daniel Seiffert, when asked why character is a vital part of team chemistry and how it has helped the Lady Cougars. "For the team to be successful, you need players who possess a strong foundational core which includes being trustworthy, honest, hard-working, fair, willing to put the team before self, genuinely caring, responsible, and a willingness to work diligently through adversity. As a coach, you can build upon this core with the unique qualities and giftedness of each player, creating a team that is successful in so many ways both on and off the field. I attribute the success of our teams the past three years directly to the character qualities exhibited by our student-athletes."
"The college years are a time of monumental growth and development for our student-athletes," Seiffert continued. "I'm reminded of that every year when we have our Senior Day game and again at our season-ending team celebration. As I reflect on the players and their collegiate careers, it is proven time and time again how character absolutely matters and how important it is for us as coaches to ensure that we provide the kind of environment that promotes building strong character foundations in our student-athletes. It is their character more than anything else that they will take with them upon graduation and it is their character which will most greatly impact their future relationships, families, and professions."
Junior midfielder Libby Kalanquin, who missed her first two collegiate seasons due to knee injuries, also commented on the character of the Lady Cougars. "The girls on our team genuinely care for one another. There are 11 girls on the field at a time, so that means that there are 18 girls who are not playing and some of them rarely even get minutes. However, the encouragement from our bench gets the entire team excited. It's not about the minutes played, it is about the fellowship. That is character. It is also about being accountable for your 28 sisters. This might be through praying for one another, by calling a team meeting to work out any problems, or by still cheering for your team even though you are injured and can't even compete. Character is doing what you can for your team and not expecting anything back from them. But, when the whole team has character, you inevitably get something in return - the love of 28 sisters."
"On behalf of our players, I would like to thank the NAIA for recognizing our team with this prestigious award," said Seiffert. "The NAIA does a terrific job in promoting the development of strong character qualities throughout its organization and its member teams. Their efforts along these lines reflect what the intercollegiate athletics experience should be all about for our student-athletes. To be selected out of 193 women's soccer programs is quite humbling. It is a tremendous honor for our players and their families as well as for our program and our university as a whole."
"Our primary goal is simple: to honor God, our teammates and families, and our university with our very best on the field, in the classroom, and in our local community," Seiffert added. "While our players continue to excel in all of these areas, they do so with such great hearts toward genuinely serving each other and so many others who are in need. It is a privilege to be part of such a quality group of young women and we are thankful for each and every one of them."
MVNU finished the 2011 season with a 12-9-2 overall record. The Lady Cougars advanced all the way to the championship game of the Mid-Central College Conference Tournament and then earned third place at the National Christian College Athletic Association National Tournament in Kissimmee, Fla.