COLUMBIA—The Stephens College soccer team had a historic season.
It wasn't because the team finished with a great record. In fact, it finished 1-17 and 0-10 in the American Midwest Conference.
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It also wasn't because the players scored a lot of goals or had much offensive success. They scored 10 times all season and lost by double digits in 10 matches.
It's historic because in the program's second season of existence, the women broke through and did score. Afterward, they celebrated as if they had won the World Cup. Freshman Rose Baka imitated an airplane as she ran around the field, and the whole team joined her in celebrating.
"The ref yelled at us because we were over-excited, so we had to go back to our positions," Baka said.
Stephens also won its first game in program history, beating Faith Baptist Bible College 4-3 on Oct. 15.
Coach Xander Kennedy took players, many of whom hadn't played soccer in years, and helped them become a team.
The team rallied around goalkeeper Briannica Ponder, who has suffered from chronic Lyme disease for more than six years. This year, Ponder was able to play more consistently and says she grew to feel comfortable in the net.
This comfort led to more success, and, during a game on Oct. 8, Ponder broke a 22-year-old National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics conference saves record. She recorded 36 saves in the match, six more than the previous record.
Ponder attributes much of this success to a new atmosphere and feeling of closeness among her teammates this season.
"I have an awesome defense who are constantly encouraging me, my captains are always yelling encouragement to me, and having a great support system helps make it so that I can just keep going," Ponder said.
As a whole, this season marked many firsts for Stephens. The team's first goal, first win and first time getting recognized for successes rather than failures.
Although Kennedy admits there were many frustrating and discouraging performances throughout the year, he said he is proud to be a part of this team.
"There were many days, many matches, where you're standing on the sideline watching goal after goal slip through, and, on those days, it was a little more difficult to feel positive about the state of Stephens College soccer," Kennedy said. "But if I'm 60 years old and looking back on my life's accomplishments, being the coach of the team that won the first soccer game at Stephens, that's a good year."