Since 1997, the NCCAA has presented the award to the women’s soccer student-athlete who best models the values of America’s first female soccer star. Akers played with passion and integrity while excelling in both the technical and tactical aspects of the game.
From her days at the University of Central Florida, where she was a four-time NCAA All-American, to carrying the U.S. Women’s National Team to World Cup glory, Akers’ faith in and love of Christ always came first. The NCCAA said it was grateful to Akers for allowing the award to bear her name.
Fortune accepted the award before some 500 men and women’s soccer players, representing 18 teams at the annual pretournament banquet on Sunday.
“I am very honored and humbled to receive the Michelle Akers Award,” said Fortune, who helped direct the Lady Flames to two NAIA national championships. “Not only did Akers set an example on the playing field, she lived for a purpose beyond the field.
“I believe the Lord truly has given me every talent and ability to glorify his name,” she added. “Playing soccer is what I do, not who I am.
“This has been the most enjoyable year playing and living life alongside my teammates. I would not be the player or person I am today without the influence and encouragement of them and my coaches. I feel very blessed.”
Lee coach Matt Yelton has enjoyed his share of success and has been surrounded by outstanding athletes during his coaching career at Lee, but he has stressed all season just what Fortune has meant to this year’s team. He has praised her, not only for her soccer ability to make plays from her midfield position, but the leadership she provides on and off the playing field. “She never takes a play off,” he noted before his Lady Flames began tournament competition on Monday.
“I’m thrilled that Leah was selected for this honor,” Yelton said with a big smile displaying his appreciation. “She is a very deserving individual, not just for the type of player that she is on the soccer field, but more importantly this award represents the type of person you are away from a soccer field. Leah is a respected leader, an excellent student (3.95 GPA), and a follower of Christ, who just happens to be a fantastic soccer player.”
The Lady Flames begin their drive toward their first NCCAA National Championship this afternoon (2 p.m.) in pool play at the Austin-Tindall Regional Park in Kissimmee, Fla.