Air Force vs. Boise State - Aug. 27, 2010 (Gallery II)
Larry Friend enters his eighth season as head coach of the United States Air Force Academy women’s soccer program in 2016. The 1985 USAFA grad is the second head coach to lead the Falcons in their 24-year history. Friend has coached six all-conference players and 52 all-academic athletes in his first seven years. The team has competed in the Mountain West Conference since 1999. The conference is nationally competitive and normally ranked in the top 12 of all NCAA Division I conferences. Keeping up with the competition in the Mountain West has been a tough task for the Falcons, but Friend has begun to see gradual success against his conference foes.
“The Academy is a tough environment that can be taken advantage of only by individuals seeking a real challenge rewarded by incredible opportunities,” Friend said. “Participating in a competitive team environment provides our young women with the tools and life lessons necessary to lead others in the Air Force and our communities.”
Friend is very proud of the soccer alumni, as many have gone on to represent the Academy as officers in the Air Force and in the civilian workforce. “Many past graduates have gone on to lead as pilots, doctors, lawyers, aircraft maintenance, general aides, logistics officers, squadron commanders and numerous other exciting careers in the Air Force.”
In 2015, the team posted a 4-14-1 record. In a season of near-misses, the team was on the wrong end of 10 one-goal matches. Air Force produced all-conference players in senior Ally Swift and sophomore Angela Karamanos. The Falcons continued to excel in the classroom, as a program-record nine cadet-athletes earned Mountain West All-Academic honors.
Despite a second consecutive season with a team comprised primarily of freshmen and sophomores, the 2014 season saw the Falcons post a 7-10-1 season and one of its best season’s ever in Mountain West competition, going 4-6-1 in conference play. The four conference wins were the most ever in MW play for Air Force. The Falcons had its first-ever wins against conference rivals Fresno State, Nevada and Utah State. Air Force more than doubled its scoring output from the 2013 season, scoring 27 goals. Air Force’s scorers were led by freshman midfielder Angela Karamanos, who scored seven goals and had two assists for 16 points.
In 2013, Friend led a youth-laden team that featured 12 freshmen. The Falcons rallied to one of its best seasons in Mountain West play, posting its winningest season in conference play since 2002. The Falcons also showcased composure and fair play on the pitch, earning a 2013 NSCAA Ethics and Sportsmanship Award.
Friend guided the Falcons to a 5-9-3 record in 2012. The Falcons excelled on the defensive end, allowing opponents to a 0.95 goals allowed average, one of the lowest in program history. The team featured 10 all-academic selections, the most since 2006.
In 2011, the Falcons went 6-10-3. The squad featured four-year all-conference honoree and 2011 all-region selection forward Bridgett Murphy. The Falcons continued to excel in the classroom, garnering eight academic all-conference selections.
The bumps and bruises of playing with one of the youngest teams in the country in 2009 paid off in 2010. The squad improved to an 8-9-2 record. The eight wins were the most since 2001 and the program had its fewest losses ever in the Division I era. Air Force scored 21 goals on the season, doubling the 10 goals scored in 2009. The Falcon defense had a fantastic season, allowing 0.91 goals per game and producing seven shutouts. The 0.91 GAA was the second-lowest in school history and lowest in MWC play.
Friend was an assistant at Air Force from 1992-1996 and 2002-2008. He started the women’s soccer program with former head coach Marty Buckley while on active duty in 1992. In their second season, the team broke into the top 20 of the NCAA Division II weekly rankings. They continued to improve each year with consistent top 20 NCAA rankings. By the fourth season, the 1995 team achieved a 14-3-2 record with an NCAA Division II ranking of seventh in the nation. They missed the NCAA championship round of eight by one slot, but produced their first All American selection that season. In 1996, Friend helped Buckley and the Falcons transition from Division II to Division I. They coached the team to its first Division I tournament appearance in the Western Athletic Conference Championships. In 1997, Friend returned to his flying career.
Friend calls Columbia, Md., his hometown. His father, Joseph F. Friend, moved the family to Columbia in 1969 and retired from the Navy in 1971. Friend graduated from Wilde Lake High School in 1980, where he was team captain of the soccer team and a member of the 1976 state championship team. Friend went on to the Air Force Academy and played for Coach Luis Sagastume as a four-year starter and team captain on the men’s team. His teams compiled a 46-24-7 record, during which time he earned all-league honors four times and one “All-Midwest” region selection. Friend is ranked third in the men’s program for career assists and 20th for most points overall. He was selected by his teammates as Best Offensive and Most Inspirational player in two different seasons.
Friend continued his soccer career after graduating from the Academy to include playing overseas for the Japanese team Sukazan while on active duty. He also competed for four years on the All-Air Force soccer team in the late 80s. He captained the team twice during his playing career and led them to a pair of inter-service championships. Friend was selected to the United States All-Armed Forces Team all four years. He was selected team captain of the U.S. Armed Forces team and led them to a 1990 North American Championship in Victoria, Canada. This victory qualified the U.S. for the 1991 Military World Football Championship in Holland.
Friend ended his playing career after the Military World Championships in 1991 and moved on to the coaching ranks. He received his United States Soccer Federation “A” license in 1994 and his Federation Goalkeeper license in 2007. Friend has worked with numerous clubs teams, state and region Olympic Development Programs since 1992. Friend traveled with the United States Soccer Federation on coaching courses to Germany and Holland in 2011 and Portugal in 2015. He has now visited 7 professional clubs in 3 different countries. “These experiences have been fantastic. They have broadened me as coach and given me different approaches to teach this great game.”
Friend retired from the Air Force in 2005 after 20 years of service. He flew over 2,000 hours as an instructor pilot, on search and rescue and VIP helicopters. Friend completed helicopter pilot training at Fort Rucker Army Post, Ala., in 1986 where he was selected as “top stick” in both the contact and final phase of training.
In 1987, Friend began a two-year tour at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan, as a combat search and rescue pilot with the 33rd Air Rescue Squadron. He was credited with two Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) missions in the Philippines and one life saved in Japan.
In 1989, Friend was assigned to the 41st Air Rescue Squadron at Patrick AFB, Fla., as an instructor pilot and NASA shuttle liaison officer. Friend flew numerous rescue support flights for space shuttle launches and supplied navigation stations in the Bahamas. He was lauded for his efforts by the Secretary of Defense on a highly sensitive JCS mission and credited with assist for a life saved off the coast of Florida.
In 1992, Friend had his first stint coaching soccer and instructing at the Air Force Academy. Friend was honored with the Outstanding Military Educator of the Year award in 1995. This is the highest award the Academy bestows on its instructors.
In 1997, Friend was assigned to the 1st Helicopter Squadron at Andrews AFB, Md., to fly Bell UH-1 Hueys. His unit supported classified emergency action programs for the national capital region. He also flew VIPs such as the President of Egypt and the Vice President of the United States. He returned to the Academy in 2001.
Friend earned a master’s degree in sport administration from the University of Northern Colorado in 1994. His professional military education includes Squadron Officer School in 1989 and Air Command and Staff College in 1999.
Friend and his wife, Maribeth, have been married 27 years and have three children, Corey, Carina, and Felicia.