Leyla Alev Kelter is a multifaceted athlete who broke into the sport of rugby after completing a dual- sport NCAA career. She brings a truly diverse background to the table, making her a force to be reckoned with on the rugby pitch.
Alev, as she is known to family and friends, was born at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, March 21st 1991 to Leyla C. Kelter and USAF Lt. Col. Mark Perusse. In her younger years, she had to opportunity to travel throughout the world as a military dependent. At age 8, her family settled in Eagle River Alaska, where her talents propelled her to elite status on several U.S. national teams. She is the daughter of USAF Lt. Col. Scott and Mrs. Leyla Kelter. She has three siblings- older brother USAF Capt. Erol Kelter, twin sister Derya Kelter, and younger brother Aydin Kelter.
At age 14, she became the first girl from the state of Alaska to ever be selected to the U.S. Soccer under-14 Olympic Development program national training camp and Girls National Team. She continued to play in the women's national player pool through the under-22 level, playing internationally in Costa Rica, England, and Germany. She led her high school soccer team to a state championship as the leagues leading scorer and was selected to the state All Tournament Team.
Alev was selected to U.S.A. Hockey Women’s under-18 team, where she won gold against Canada in 2008 at the inaugural IIHF (International Ice Hockey Federation) Women’s World Championships in Calgary. In 2009 Alev captained the U.S. under-18 team to a second IIHF World
Championship gold medal win over Canada in Fussen, Germany. Alev was awarded MVP Top Defender for the IIHF World Championship, and tied for the highest plus-minus rating for the tournament. As captain of the gold medal team, Alev accepted the Bob Johnson Award at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in recognition of excellence in international ice hockey competition. She was later selected to the U.S.A. Hockey under-22 U.S. women’s hockey player pool.
In her home state of Alaska, Alev won multiple Athlete of the Week Awards in local and statewide papers and was selected to the National Soccer Coaches Association of America and Adidas All Region Team. She was a Parade Magazine Athlete of the Year and Gatorade Player of the Year for soccer in both 2008 and 2009. Because of her dedication to community service during her high school years, she was awarded the Ernest P. Gruening Award for outstanding school and community service. These awards culminated in a full Division I scholarship to play both hockey and soccer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she chose to pursue her Bachelors in Fine Arts Degree.
As a college freshman, Alev took her Badger soccer team to the Sweet 16 as a starting center midfielder. Two years later Alev assisted in the game-winning goal against Boston University, warning a NCAA D-1 Women's Hockey National Championship. For her contributions throughout her career, she was recognized with the NCAA All American Academic Athlete Award.
As her hopes to participate in the Winter Olympics in Sochi with Women's Hockey waned, the U.S. Women's Rugby Sevens coach Ric Suggitt invited Alev to come to the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista California to try her hand at rugby. Having never played the sport, Alev Learned quickly, scoring the first try in a scrimmage against Canada. She was immediately offered a 10-month contract with the national team. Within weeks of moving to Chula Vista, she garnered her first international cap at the Guanzhou Women's Sevens in China. Her next international tournament as at the Amsterdam Sevens.
Since joining the national team, she has been training at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista. She was selected to travel with Tiger Rugby in their inaugural competition in Cancun, Mexico. She was also selected to represent the Serevi Select team to play in Fiji, where her team won second place in the tournament.
She was acknowledged on the international stage as a force to be reckoned with. Her abilities grew and were showcased as she played as the starting scrumhalf and kicker (kick offs, and shared the responsibility of kicking conversions).
After a heart breaking loss to England at the final stop in Amsterdam, she and her teammates prepared for the next Olympic qualifier, NACRA.
They earned a qualifying berth for the Rio 2016 Olympics at the NACRA tournament in Cary, North Carolina. Alev was the top scorer of the tournament.
Alev and her team represented Team USA at the Pan American games in Toronto, Canada in July of 2015. There they won the Silver medal in Rugby Sevens.
Since then the team began on their next World Rugby tour in December 2015. The official stops for the tour are Dubai, Sao Paulo Brazil, Atlanta USA, Langford Canada, and Clermont-Ferrand France.
Alev was selected to her second dream team for the Atlanta Georgia leg of the 2016 world tour.
In the summer of 2016, Alev and 11 others were selected to the inaugural USA women's rugby 7's team to play in the modern Olympic games. She and her teammates traveled to Rio De Janeiro Brazil to compete with 11 other teams.
The team placed 5th overall. Though it wasn't the ending they wanted, the showing they had let the world know the United States is and will continue to be a force to be reckoned with.
Alev was the number one scorer for Team USA, as well as the first American woman to ever score in the Olympic games.
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