Missouri soccer players bond beyond the field

Wednesday, October 12, 2011 | 4:40 p.m. CDT; updated 8:47 p.m. CST, Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Sophomore Dominique Richardson, a midfielder for Missouri's women's soccer team, kicks the ball past a Northern Arizona player on Sept. 2. The Tigers beat Northern Arizona, 3-0.

COLUMBIA — When the band started to play, Caroline Stanley stopped chatting with her pals and started to sing.

Following the lyrics of the song "Here is our King" on the screen at Mizzou Arena, Stanley swung her body slowly from side to side.

Stanley, a freshman goalkeeper for Missouri, was one of the 11 players from the Missouri soccer team who attended "Fields of Faith" on Tuesday. Every year, the Kansas City-based Fellowship of Christian Athletes organizes the event on campuses nationwide to bring student-athletes together in the values of Christian faith.

The Missouri soccer players went together not only because they are fervent Christians, but because they are also very close friends.

"We are best friends," freshman midfielder Lauren Flynn said. "All of us."

Ten minutes before the event began, the Missouri soccer players greeted each other and started talking about their days and making jokes. Their laughter echoed across the arena, which was starting to fill with student-athletes.

But chatter turned into silence and concentration when the event started and the Missouri soccer players listened carefully to Missouri coaches and athletes speak about their experiences in Christian life. In between speeches, the Campus Christian House Worship Band played a set of Christian songs and conducted prayers.

Faith plays a major part in the lives of several Missouri soccer players.

Participating in the events hosted by the fellowship organization helps them reaffirm their beliefs and share with people they can identify with easily.

"It's so important to us because soccer is just a small part of our lives," sophomore midfielder Dominique Richardson said. "It's great to come to a place where there are so many people who are similar to you and share your beliefs."

Being in a context where they don't have to compete with each other is also positive.

"It's great to come here because there is no competition between us," Flynn said. "You can just come, relax, and be open about things."

But events like Tuesday's also help the Missouri soccer players strengthen their friendship.

"We are always either with each other or talking to each other," Stanley said, in the middle of a circle her teammates formed after Tuesday's event. "If one of us has a problem, it's easy to come to one of the girls because we trust each other."

And their friendship goes beyond the soccer field.

"We always hang out together," Stanley said with a chuckle. "If we are at Starbucks, for example, it starts with two people, but after a while there are like 12 of us there. We just love being around each other."

That chemistry has transferred to their game this fall, which could have been a challenge in a team with nine freshmen. But not for the Tigers.

"There are no bubbles in this team," redshirt sophomore defender Sarah Thune said. "It's really amazing to see how quickly we have blended as a team this year."

And that blending together is quite literal.

In a reenactment of one of their pregame habits, the 11 Missouri players came into a circle, their arms around each other. They closed their eyes while sophomore forward Alyssa Diggs said a prayer. When she finished, the 11 friends broke the circle.

"Work," they all shouted with smiles.

They work hard everyday. And they do it together.

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