Stephens women's soccer keeps positive vibe throughout season's first game

Saturday, September 22, 2012 | 5:25 p.m. CDT; updated 7:37 p.m. CDT, Saturday, September 22, 2012
Stephens College played Missouri Baptist University in their first game in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. The Missouri Baptist Spartans won the game 14-0.

COLUMBIA — When freshman Bianca Fitzpatrick laced up her cleats for Stephens' first soccer game of the season it wasn't just her first soccer game in a maroon Stars uniform, it was her first soccer game.

Fitzpatrick, a runner throughout high school, had to find a new athletic outlet upon arriving at Stephens, which does not have a track program in place.

Her roommate, Dani Wilson, a forward on the Stars soccer team, convinced Fitzpatrick to come to a practice with her at the beginning of the season.

"Dani talked me into it," Fitzpatrick said. "I've always played sports, and I was ready to try something new. Since I used to run track, I've got the running part down. It's the technique I need to learn."

After only six weeks of practices, Fitzpatrick's technique was put to the test Saturday when the Stars took on Missouri Baptist. Excited Stephens students, parents and alumni gathered at Cosmopolitan Park to watch the team, which was formed in spring 2012, take the field for the first time.

Despite having "about a dozen butterflies," Fitzpatrick took the field with confidence in the team's season opener.

"She's doing great," Wilson said. "She went from someone that had never played soccer before to a college athlete."

Stephens coach Xander Kennedy said he was grateful to have eager, new players like Fitzpatrick join the team.

"On a college level, you don't expect to teach basics," Kennedy said. "But we've had to. We've had to go over things like throwing the ball in. The players that are new to the sport have great attitudes and are receptive though."

Throughout the first half, the Stars gave their best effort, but when the referee blew the whistle to signal the end of the first half, Stephens was down 8-0.

But when the Stars players ran back to the bench, red-faced and winded, they still displayed smiles across their faces. Their halftime huddle was upbeat and positive. The players laughed and joked while Kennedy handed out advice. The score no longer mattered.

"For me, it's about becoming a better athlete and having fun," Fitzpatrick said.

Many of her teammates held the same view.

"It's a fun game," Wilson said. "We're not going to let a loss get us down."

In the second half, the players maintained their positive outlook, ignoring the score. They continued to push themselves against a more practiced team.

When the game's 90-minutes were up, the Stars had lost 14-0. However, the team's attitude suggested that they were the victors.

Midfielder Briannica Ponder said she was proud of the effort her team had displayed during its first game.

"We're working hard," Ponder said. "We're fighting hard, too. If you look at the score, you might see failure, but we're learning so much, and that's a success."

The Stars will travel 4 p.m. Tuesday to Centralia, Ill., to take on the Kaskaskia College Blue Angels.

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