COLUMBIA — Most of the time in soccer if a team gives up 16 goals in a game it is not something to celebrate. But for the Stephens College soccer team, this game was one for the books.
The Stars' goalkeeper Briannica Ponder faced 52 shots in Tuesday's game against Lyon College and saved 36 of them, breaking a 22-year-old National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) record. The previous record of 30 saves was set by Carrie Schroeder of Tiffin University in 1991.
"The other team's coaches told me before I even had found out from anyone officially," Ponder said. "I got congratulated from them and then on the bus back my teammates congratulated me."
Before starting for Stephens, Ponder, a sophomore, had not played since the seventh grade. Battling health issues like Lyme disease and the symptoms stemming from it, Ponder took a long break from the game. Now that she's back and playing consistently, Ponder is surprising even herself with her achievements.
"It feels kind of surreal," Ponder said. "I never expected that I would do well in sports. That was kind of always my younger brother's thing. I was always winning 'nerdy' awards, not athletic ones. So, the fact that I'm in this position is kind of amazing to me."
Ponder is quick to credit the coaching staff for her standout performances and improvements this season. Stephens did not have a goalkeeping coach up until a few weeks ago and the addition of this position has helped her play immensely, she said.
"They've been helping me with new exercises that I can do. He does more intense workouts with me before the game starts, that way I'm warming up more areas that I didn't think about before," Ponder said.
Michael Burke and Michael Reustle, the coaches Ponder is referring to, have been doing research since they took on this challenge. They have put Ponder through more jumping drills, shooting drills and more intense workouts to help her improve.
"There's a lot that I didn't remember because I used to play goalie as a kid," Ponder said. "There were a lot of things that I was supposed to be thinking about that my coach made me a lot more aware of. It's definitely made a huge difference."
Ponder hopes to continue improving this season, especially in the team's game at 4 p.m. on Sunday against William Woods University. Stephens is 0-11 this season and has not won a game since the soccer team came back to campus last year.
"I really hope we win a game," Ponder said. "That's my biggest hope for the season."