NORTHRIDGE, Calif. ---
From Cook to Kirk, the archetype of a captain has been romanticized into a conglomerate of nerves of steel, a predisposed curiosity and a penchant for danger. Those qualities, which separate a captain from their crew, are often tested and scrutinized, whether it's in the unknowns of the Pacific or in boldly going where no man has gone before.
Entering her senior year and final season at Northridge, Chloe McDaniel has certainly exemplified the qualities that lift a captain above the masses of able bodies. McDaniel has bucked a trend and enters her third season as the captain of the CSUN women's soccer team. Although her journeys with the defending Big West Champions has certainly not led to the peril that plagued her more famous counterparts, she carries herself as a leader in everything she does.
A 5-6 center back from Palmdale, Calif., McDaniel has achieved quite a list of accomplishments. Last year, as CSUN captured the Big West Tournament title and earned its first berth into the NCAA Tournament, McDaniel was the 2012 Big West Conference Defensive Player of the Year. She anchored a stout Matador defense that allowed just 13 goals and posted 11 shutouts.
Not that everything she does on the pitch is defensive-orientated. She headed home a pair of goals and added an assist last year, all of which came against Big West Conference opponents.
Additionally, she was recognized for her work off the pitch and was named a Big West Conference Scholar-Athlete for the 2012–13 academic year. To qualify for the prestigious distinction, a student-athlete must maintain a 3.2 GPA or higher and excel in their sport. A kinesiology major, McDaniel has also served as a tutor for fellow Matador student-athletes.
Most recently, McDaniel was named a Senior CLASS finalist, one of the most prestigious awards for senior student-athletes in the nation. Of the roughly 1,800 senior women's soccer players competing in Division I this season, McDaniel and 29 of her peers were chosen for their embodiment of the award's four tenants: character, classroom, community and competition.
"All the awards were shocking. I never expected any of this to happen, plus I would not describe myself as overly studious, so the academic awards were especially nice," McDaniel said. "Throughout the season, I was never really thinking about awards. I was just playing. The scary part is I feel like the standards are even higher and I want to exceed my expectations this year too."
On the field, McDaniel also excels as team captain. Her actions and work ethic make her a leader. Last year, on a team filled with nine seniors, some of whom spent five years in the program, it was McDaniel who was a nearly unanimous choice when it came to selecting the captains.
"When I came in, Kellie Drenner and Katie Fox were my idols. I wanted to be just like them," McDaniel said. "They helped me so much when I was a freshman, especially with all the questions. I wanted to be a team leader like them."
A regular captain on nearly every team she has competed for, McDaniel strives for her best in every situation and believes that mind-set becomes infectious.
"I like the role of being a leader. I think it comes with my personality and I hold myself to high standards. I think people like that and gravitate towards that," she added. "I think my mom has been a huge influence and leader in my life. Although I like to be positive all the time, I have my moments and she is there to reinforce the fact that I am a leader. How I act and feel can affect others."
Being a center back, McDaniel sees the position as a natural leadership role. From the back, the defense can see the play develop and create the action necessary to thwart an attack. "When I'm on the field, I think about the way the I'm acting. Energy is contagious. If I'm negative or positive that is going to be reflected by the team," she explained.
That fact is not lost on CSUN head coach Keith West, who was a team captain in his own right for the Matador men's program in the mid-1990s.
"I don't think I have ever had a player who has had the same competitive drive or work rate as Chloe," West said. "When she showed up as a true freshman, I doubt I would have forecast her to be a Defensive Player of the Year. But her willingness to improve and her determination to be the one of the best has made her a great player and a great captain.
West describes McDaniel as an overachiever who will do the hard things: challenging teammates, constantly working to improve, doing things that might not be the most alluring to college-aged students with a new sense of liberty.
In some regards, that competitive yearning can scare some people off. But the one thing West credits McDaniel with is a fierce determination to back up everything she says and does on the field. "When she came in, Chloe had a fantastic motor. As her skills started to sharpen, the leadership qualities came out. You just don't get players like that too often," West added.
McDaniel is equally effusive about the influence West has had on her game and her life.
"He sets the bar high for everyone and I think that has helped our program improve since I've been here," she added. "He sets high standards for leaders and since I've been captain, my job is never done."
McDaniel hopes all that work pays off when she is done with soccer. Having been involved in Division-I athletics for five years, McDaniel is interested in pursuing a career in athletics administration. She has met with many leaders at CSUN and also credits them for piquing her professional interests.
"I enjoy the relationships I have developed throughout my time at CSUN and I want to do something in athletics, whether it's administration, compliance, marketing or something else," McDaniel said. "I've met with [CSUN Director of Intercollegiate Athletics] Dr. [Brandon] Martin and I can already tell that there is a different vibe about CSUN athletics. He has made himself known to the team through the construction and new signage around school."
The time when McDaniel's soccer career at CSUN will end is coming soon. There will not be another season. She will have to find new outlets for that drive and determination. But until that day dawns, McDaniel relishes the chance to be a leader among her peers. She yearns for the responsibility and pressure that comes with leadership. Like Cook and Kirk, she thrives when peril is at its thickest and works determinedly to make her teammates and herself successful. That is the captain's mission, whether it is on the pitch, the ocean or in space.