The United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) in Kings Point announced plans to add a women’s soccer team to its roster of NCAA Division III athletic programs during a press conference on Wednesday, Feb. 12.
Rear Admiral and USMMA Superintendent Jack Buono said the formation of the program is part of an ongoing effort to attract more female students to the academy. Currently, about a quarter of 1,000 or so midshipmen enrolled in the academy’s four-year program are women.
“The real excitement about this is Kings Point has really been making progress in attracting more women to the academy,” Buono said. “Any opportunity to increase the level of sporting events and the leadership development of our women is very exciting for us.”
The women’s soccer program will move forward as a club team for its first two years before becoming a full-fledged NCAA program. Currently, the academy fields 16 varsity teams; 10 men’s programs and six women’s programs, which all compete in the DIII Skyline Conference. As with all the academy’s teams, the women’s soccer team will be known as the “Mariners” and will don the school’s blue and gray colors for its uniforms. Buono added the academy is in the midst of a nationwide search for a head coach for the new program.
In addition to kickstarting the women’s soccer program, the USMMA also announced it is in the final stages of renovations to its baseball facilities at Lower Roosevelt Field. The refurbishing is focused on improving both the field itself and the experience for students, fans and parents in attendance.
“It’s really going to be a first-class facility,” Buono said.
Working on the clay-heavy field requires dry weather, so the timeline for the renovations may shift depending on conditions. If the weather remains dry, Buono said Lower Roosevelt Field should be ready to go in about a month.
The student body for the USMMA is highly athletic, with about 85 percent of students having played sports in high school at some level. Buono and the academy brass see sports as an ideal venue for teaching midshipmen the skills they need to succeed, and welcome the opportunity to invest in improving their programs.
“At Kings Point, sports are important,” Buono said. “Not from a win or lose perspective or developing professional athletes or bringing money into the institution. Instead, our program is what we consider to be a leadership development program.”