“Being able to make the varsity teams when I was younger just instilled so much confidence in me,” Solamente said. “I recognized that it’s very special and not always how it works when there a rookie on the team. St. Andrew’s gave me that opportunity to play with much older girls.”
Solamente is one of six St. Andrew’s graduates and one coach selected as members of the inaugural class of the St. Andrew’s Athletic Hall of Fame. They will be inducted on October 15 as part of Reunion Weekend.
Athletics Director Al Hightower said Solamente’s resume was beyond reproach.
“It was an easy choice because she was a premier athlete not only in the PVAC conference, not only in the area, but nationally,” Hightower said. “That was sort of a home run for her.”
In addition to soccer, which she played on-and-off at St. Andrew’s, Solamente played basketball and ran track.
Soccer was her “serious” sport, she said — she played on club soccer teams and competed at the state and regional level. Basketball, however, was “pure fun,” she said.
“Basketball was such a nice respite from soccer, which was really becoming a career,” Solamente said.
That doesn’t mean the team didn’t take the game seriously — the ‘88-’89 basketball team had an undefeated season and took home a PVAC championship.
“It was very rewarding to thrive in a sport that wasn’t my main sport,” Solamente said. “It gave me a lot of confidence and I remember it being a lot of fun.”
Solamente was recruited to play soccer for the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where she was teammates with future professional players Mia Hamm and Kristine Lilly. While at UNC she won four national championships and was named an All-American.
“They’re real people, even though they’re the most insane athletes and really propelled our sport forward,” Solamente said. “Training with them and playing games with them every weekend made me such a better player than I think I ever would have been if I went to any other program.”
She recalled her two years on the U.S. Women’s National Team — 1991 to 1993 — as being both “really fun” and “really intense.” Her time on the team would help her receive what she called a “gift” 20 years later — an opportunity to coach children around the world as a sports envoy for the U.S. State Department.
Since 2014 Solamente has participated in sports diplomacy programs in Bolivia, Mexico, Holland, Senegal and Jordan.
“It’s the most rewarding thing I could ever do,” Solamente said. “I can’t even believe how lucky I am.”
Gary Wyatt coached Solamente in track and said she deserves to be inducted in the Hall of Fame because of “what she gave to the school individually — her sportsmanship, her hard work and dedication to her teams, and at a top level in three sports.”
“She was one of the stars for each one of those sports,” Wyatt said. “Every coach depended on her for her sport and to be a leader on the field also.”
But classmate Kim Druckenmiller, ’90, said it’s about more than just her athletic prowess.“It’s also the well-roundedness of her academics, creative, artistic ability and being a good person,” Druckenmiller said. “She gives back to the community more than anybody I know, with all she does for soccer, coaching…it wasn’t just that she had a good soccer career. All around, she is a talented individual."