Stephens soccer team stays motivated despite poor weather, tough season

Thursday, October 25, 2012 | 9:51 p.m. CDT; updated 10:59 p.m. CDT, Thursday, October 25, 2012
The Stephens College women's soccer team lost to Hannibal-LaGrange on Thursday at Cosmopolitan Park. This is the first year Stephens has had a women's soccer team, and the team has yet to win a game.

COLUMBIA — A lone spectator watched from the sidelines at Field No. 3 at Cosmopolitan Park when the whistle blew for halftime.

A few fans watched the Stephens College women's soccer game Thursday against Hannibal-LaGrange from their cars in the parking lot, while others watched from under the shelter of a nearby pavilion. Only one fan, wrapped in a large blanket, braved the cold, rainy conditions to watch from up close.

Because of the poor conditions, officials met with the coaches at halftime to discuss how they wanted to continue. The referees, Stars coach Xander Kennedy and Trojans coach Jason Nichols, decided to shorten the second half from 45 minutes to 26 minutes, making the total playing time at 71 minutes. In order for a game to be official, the teams must play a minimum of 70 minutes.

A big factor in the decision was the scoreboard.

Stephens was down 6-0, which was an improvement from Wednesday's game against Lyon College, where they broke for the half trailing 14-0. Stephens went on to lose that game 24-0.

"The outcome was not in question," said Kennedy after his team 7-0 loss Thursday. "We knew it wouldn't change the game if we didn't play a full second half."

Thursday's game saw the Stars score their first goal of the season — on themselves. Centerback Polly Mytinger made the first goal of the game, accidentally kicking the ball into the Stephens net, scoring a point for the Trojans.

Mytinger said the goal was her most embarrassing moment of the year. However, when she called her father after the game she was pleased to hear him say that he was still proud of her.

"My dad loves the sport," Mytinger said. "I'm a daddy's girl. I just want to make him happy. It makes me want to put in 200 percent."

Teammate Delynn Uttecht said that the goal didn't affect the team's play for the rest of the game.

"We just keep each other motivated and tell each other it's OK — even if we score on our own goals," Uttecht said.

That seems to be a common attitude among the Stars players. Despite having a rough first season as a team, the players have found a way to persevere.

"It’s tough at times," Kennedy said. "The real challenge has been keeping them interested in showing up to practice at 6:15 a.m. every day and coming out in shorts and a T-shirt on a day when it’s 30 degrees outside and raining."

Mytinger admitted that it would be easy to give up, but the growth that they've seen in each other as individuals and as a team has kept them going.

Some players on the Stephens team came into the season with no soccer experience at all. Freshman Bianca Fitzpatrick was a track athlete in high school, but when she came to Stephens and found the school lacked a track program, her roommate convinced her to join the soccer team.

Kennedy said that the varying skill levels and lack of recruiting before the season started made it difficult to gauge the success of the team.

"I recruited the few players that I was able to recruit," Kennedy said. "I didn’t know how many real, solid athletic soccer players I’d have coming in. And so when we lost the first match by 18 goals it kinda dictated what I should expect for the season."

The 18-0 loss was not the Stars worst of the season. Some matches ended in scores that resembled the outcome of a football game. Their closest match was a 5-0 loss to William Woods on Oct. 17.

With the season coming to an end this weekend, and the team looking at a possible 0-8 finish, the players are still able to look at the past five weeks of play as a positive experience.

"It's good to see how far we've come," Uttecht said. "Even without scoring an offensive goal or winning a game this season."

The Stars will play their final game of the season at 2 p.m. Saturday against Harris-Stowe State University in St. Louis.

Supervising editor is Grant Hodder.

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