AMHS grad thriving at Annapolis

Finding yourself smack-dab in the midst of one of the most storied Division I rivalries in the history of collegiate athletics can be a daunting thing.

Finding yourself smack-dab in the midst of one of the most storied Division I rivalries in the history of collegiate athletics can be a daunting thing.

For Naval Academy freshman Kate Herren, a 2007 Auburn Mountainview graduate, that moment came Sept. 24 at West Point, N.Y., during the first Army versus Navy women’s soccer match of the season.

“The first game … it was ridiculous,” said Herren, a defender for the Midshipman. “They had their entire group out there screaming and yelling the entire time. To play there was intimidating. It was a lot of chaos in the first half before both teams ended up settling down and playing soccer.”

That contest, a 0-0 double-overtime stalemate, was just a foretaste of what Herren could expect when Navy plays Army.

Herren’s Division I journey began June 28 when, after a year at Naval Academy Preparatory school in Newport, R.I., she reported to Annapolis for Plebe Summer.

“When I got here, it was kind of like, in the locker room and out in practice it would suddenly hit me, ‘This is really happening. I’m here, I’m in uniform and I’ll be a Naval officer in four years,’ ” Herren said.

On the field during the season reality also made its presence felt, reminding Herren that this was athletics at a higher level, a far cry from her South Puget Sound League days.

“It was really rough,” she said. “At the beginning of the season it was like a whole new world. You get to college and everyone is fast. Instead of just a couple of people on your high school team who are fast, they’re all fast.”

Herren said that the age difference between freshmen and seniors also was intimidating.

“A lot of the players are 21, and they’re stronger and more experienced,” she said.

Luckily, however, the Navy seniors were looking out for her.

“The seniors have all shared the knowledge that they had and made it really easy for me,” she said. “It was challenging, but a great learning experience.”

Although in her first year of competition at the collegiate level, Herren is already drawing praise from Navy coach Carin Gabarra.

“Kate took no time to step into the flow of the game for us and really raised our level when she went on the field,” she said. “She is a leader by example, both on and off the field. Her teammates respect her and her work ethic, and she works every day to help her team get better. She will continue to raise the level of her game and become an impact player for us.”

Herren already has made her presence felt, scoring the winning goal in overtime on Nov. 8 to bounce Colgate University out of the Patriot League tournament and set up the Army versus Navy rematch.

And although the Midshipmen were unable to overcome the Black Knights, losing 1-0 in double overtime, Herren said she’s just chalking it all up to a learning experience.

“It’s been tough,” Herren said. “Plebe year is kind of like a hazing year. You’re not supposed to have friends or enjoy your leisure time. But soccer really helped balance that by just being a normal person these last couple of months.”