COLUMBIA— It doesn’t take long to pick out the leader of the Stephens College soccer team. With every blink of the eye, midfielder Kenzie Andrade is somewhere else on the field, directing and encouraging her teammates.
The junior transfer from Maple Woods Community College and Columbia native has given stability to an inexperienced team in only its second season since being reinstated. When head coach Xander Kennedy heard Andrade was showing interest in his program earlier this year, he was surprised.
“I could tell pretty quickly that this is a caliber of player that we don’t currently have,” he said. “From the first day of practice [this season], I could tell she was a strong soccer player.”
It didn’t take Kennedy long to discover Andrade’s leadership qualities.
“She seemed to pretty easily earn the respect of the other girls out there and took some initiative that I appreciated,” he said.
It was this initiative as well as her deep understanding of the game that earned Andrade a spot as captain alongside sophomores Michaela Daniels and Dani Wilson.
“I know how to motivate and get people’s heads on straight,” Andrade said. “I’m very much a team-oriented person. The leading position has always been one of my strong suits.”
Andrade is willing to do whatever it takes, both on and off the field, to make the team better. Earlier this season, she created a Facebook page for the team and made a list with each player's contact information. She also offered to help her teammates with any fundamentals they wanted to work on. Her help was especially beneficial to a program dominated by girls who have never played competitive soccer before.
“I’m pretty good at knowing who learns better this way, and who learns better a different way,” she said. “My goal right now is to just help them understand the game.”
Freshman defender Sammy Dorman, who also has a fairly thorough soccer background, said Andrade has still played a major role in helping her become a better player.
“I want somebody to let me know when I’m doing something wrong, and she does that,” Dorman said. “She knows what she’s doing, and I love getting feedback from her.”
Teaching the game is what Andrade enjoys most and she coaches two local youth teams in the under-9 and under-15 age groups.
“I love to teach them something and then see them do it perfectly,” she said.
But at the end of the day, Andrade is just happy to be back playing healthy again.
During her junior and senior years at Rock Bridge High School, she began struggling with thyroid problems that affected her physical fitness.
“I couldn’t even run a sprint without hyperventilating,” Andrade said. “I didn’t know what was wrong, I thought I was out of shape.”
The issues continued at Maple Woods Community College in Kansas City, before a blood test last year revealed her true ailment. Now that Andrade knows how to treat it, she said she feels much fitter this season.
Although Stephens lost its first five games, Andrade is already impressed by the team’s improvement.
“I just want to play, that’s my main motivation. Skill is part of this game definitely, but improving yourself and having the determination and working for your team, that’s the biggest thing," she said. “These are the girls that are working hard every day, and as long as we’re improving, I’m more than happy to be on this team.”