HomeSportsSoccer team co-captains bond over years of playing together and pressure to succeed

Soccer team co-captains bond over years of playing together and pressure to succeed

Published Jan. 31, 2023


Despite constant pressure to one-up each other, seniors Nikki Benak and Maddie Gallagher have played soccer together for nearly a decade and are still best friends and co-captains of the Carmel High School girls’ varsity team.

The dynamic duo met on their club Monterey Surf soccer team when Gallagher joined in fourth grade, and the two have been friends ever since. After nine years of club and school seasons, the athletes have learned the other’s playing style to the extent that verbal communication is not always needed on the field.

Nikki Benak and Maddie Gallagher (from left) have been playing soccer together as friends since they were young. (courtesy of NIKKI BENAK)

“Nikki and I understand each other so well on the field just from playing together for so long.” Gallagher says. “I know exactly what she’s going to do, when she’s going to do it, what passes she will and won’t make. We have an unreal connection both on and off the field.” 

This connection is proven by their statistics for this season with CHS. As of Jan. 26, Benak has ten goals and seven assists, while Gallagher has six goals and six assists.

Although Gallagher and Benak have remained friends throughout the nine years, they have both experienced pressure to try to be the best by various coaches. As they grew to become some of the best players in middle school, coaches wanted to know who was going to be the future captain.

“We were told one of us had to be the best, but it was up to us to decide.” Benak explains. “So although we were best friends, it got toxic really fast because we were always competing.” 

Gallagher adds it was the main source of animosity between them.

Nikki Benak (left) and Maddie Gallagher (right) are the team co-captains for CHS and have a great connection both on and off the field. (photo by NICOLE MIRSKI)

“For us, it was like the only thing we would ever fight about, and it was always a big source of tension,” Gallagher says. “It wasn’t because we didn’t love each other, but because everyone pitted us against each other.”

Benak and Gallagher were able to overcome the pressure and come back as a partnership that was even stronger than before by talking through it and realizing that they would be stronger working together.

“Now that we’re no longer pitted against each other, our relationship has evolved into something awesome, and we’ll probably be friends forever,” Benak explains. “I think of her as my sister.”

In addition to being co-captains of the Carmel soccer team and playing for Monterey Surf, last year Benak was named The Monterey Herald’s Offensive Player of the Year and was on the First Team in the Mission Division, and Gallagher was on the Second Team.

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