Last Friday, the Stephens Stars soccer team returned to its home field at Cosmo Park after its first away game of the season in Jacksonville, Ill. – a lopsided 9-1 defeat at the hands of MacMurray College, dropping Stephens to 0-3 on the season and 0-13 in the program’s history.
But it did return with something it didn’t have before: the program's first goal, ever.
With the score 8-0 in favor of MacMurray in the 63rd minute, Stephens was able to link some passes in the offensive third to get the ball to freshman Rose Baka, who put it past the goalkeeper for the first goal in the program’s history.
“It set off the most ridiculous 8-1 goal celebration you’ve ever seen in your life,” said head coach Xander Kennedy.
“We got yelled at by the ref for being overexcited,” said Baka.
Though the goal didn’t affect the result of the game, Kennedy believes that it is just another step for the program which is only a year and a half old.
“Obviously, scoring one goal in a soccer season can’t be any sort of end line for us,” Kennedy said. “It’s a step in the right direction, but now that we’ve done that, my next goal for the team is to hold a lead at some point. And then, it would be great if it came this season, ultimately secure the program’s first win.”
“It gives us a little more hope, I think,” said co-captain Dani Wilson, a sophomore, about the goal. “A little more encouragement, determination.”
Stephens launched the program in the spring of 2012 with Kennedy as the coach and began play only a few months later in the fall. In order to fill the roster of 17 players, the inaugural squad included a number of players who had never played competitive soccer before.
“It was absolutely a developmental season last year,” said Kennedy. “I was proud that the young women kept positive attitudes and really showed dramatic improvement throughout the season.”
After an offseason of recruiting, Kennedy was able to pick up some players able to make an immediate impact in 2013. One of them, Kenzie Andrade, became a co-captain. Another, Baka, scored the program’s first goal.
“I feel like our team is the slowest-moving Hollywood drama ever,” said Kennedy with a laugh. “We came from literally nothing a year and a half ago. Now, [a couple of days ago], we scored our first goal and that was huge for us.”
Whether the first goal will be a harbinger of long-term success remains to be seen. But it may have provided a spark – in Friday’s home game against Central Methodist University, Andrade scored goal number two for the program.