City News

Honors still coming for ex-49ers soccer great

On the afternoon of Sept. 19, Lindsey Ozimek fielded a telephone phone call from Jon Lipsitz, her former coach with the Charlotte 49ers women's soccer team. He told her that the university decided to retire her No. 10 jersey, honoring one of the program's greatest players of all time.

That wasn't the only good news she received that day.

Ozimek was awakened by the ringing of her doorbell and found a small package at her feet. An overnighted letter disclosed that she was chosen as one of nine finalists for the NCAA Woman of the Year Award.

Today, Ozimek will attend a dinner in Indianapolis, where the winner of the 2008 award will be announced. A half-hour broadcast of the event will air at 4:30 p.m. Dec. 5 on ESPN2.

“This is just the highest honor,” said Ozimek. “(Charlotte Athletic Director) Judy Rose even said, ‘Do you know how big this is?'”

Ozimek admitted she was a little confused when she heard about the nomination and being selected as a finalist. She graduated in the spring and thought her days of receiving collegiate awards were over.

And she received plenty.

A three-time academic all-American, Ozimek was named Atlantic 10 Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year for 2007-08. She was a three-time, first-team All-A-10 selection and was last season's conference Midfielder of the Year.

But athletic achievement is not the sole criteria for being selected NCAA Woman of the Year. According to ncaa.org, academic achievement, service and leadership, and a personal statement from the nominee describing the “benefits she has gained from her experience as a student-athlete” are also considered.

Nominees must have earned a varsity letter in an NCAA-sponsored sport, completed their final year of college eligibility by the end of the 2008 spring season and carried a 2.5 GPA.

Charlotte Associate Athletic Director Kim Whitestone nominated Ozimek, who learned about it from a member of the campus' Athletic Academic Center. Shortly afterward, Ozimek injured her knee while training with the under-23 U.S. National Team and filled out part of the award's application while laid up in an Oregon hospital room.

Over the next few months, Ozimek was notified by mail that she was selected as one of 130 finalists and then as one of the final 30.

Then she received the letter about making the final cut. Later that day, after she received the phone call from Lipsitz about having her jersey number retired, “I lost it,” she said.

Ozimek is taking time away from her job as an assistant coach for the Belmont Abbey women's soccer team. She and her husband, Erik, are in their first season with the nationally ranked Crusaders.

Since graduating with a degree in special education, Ozimek and her husband have also been coaching youths with the North Mecklenburg Soccer Club and the Boot Room Soccer School. One of her goals is to establish a soccer program for mentally and physically challenged youths.

Ozimek hopes her playing days are not over. She continues to nurse her knee but hopes to return to the national team and, perhaps, play in the upstart Women's Professional Soccer league some day.

According to Rose, her accomplishments have already been enough to make the university proud.

“This is a huge honor for her personally and for our athletic program and the greater university,” she said. “She has received national recognition in the past for ‘on the field' performances and now to receive recognition for her total contributions is gratifying.”

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