Most high school athletes only dream of taking their talents to the college level, but for Dana Stephens, that dream became a reality after years of playing soccer opened the door to college athletics.
“I’ve played since I was five years old. I just played club (soccer) when I was younger, then travel, and high school (soccer), then here,” Stephens said.
Stephens is one of the co-captains of the NMU women’s varsity soccer team and is one of four seniors on the roster. When Stephens first joined the team, she played outside midfielder but since taking a full-time starting job her junior season, she moved to forward. Stephens is the leading goal scorer for the Wildcats with eight on the season, and is the third in the GLIAC for goals scored this season.
“She’s had a great career, she’s a goal scorer,” said head coach Matt Granstrand. “Hopefully she can catch fire here and get a bunch more.”
Stephens first heard of Northern at a college showcase her nationals team attended in Traverse City. Granstrand got in contact with her, and after a visit to the campus, Stephens decided to continue her career at NMU. Four years later, the Wildcats are having their most successful season since Stephens’ arrival, and did something no GLIAC team has been able to do since 2006 by beating Grand Valley this season.
“Beating Grand Valley was the biggest game, they’re always top in the nation so beating them was a big success for sure,” Stephens said.
Stephens’ success on the soccer field hasn’t gone unnoticed as she was named to the 2009 All-GLIAC second team, her 11 goals in 2009 was the second highest total in the conference. But for Stephens, the best part of playing soccer for the Wildcats is the team.
“I love soccer. Soccer has been my entire life. Being able to be on a good team and being able to share all the memories and moments with everybody, we’re really close,” Stephens said.
Although she has been playing soccer since she was five, Stephens was surprised by the difference in competition from the high school and college levels. She said she stays in shape by condition during the off-season and going hard in practice.
“It’s a major change. At high school, there are so many different levels of talent. When you come up here everybody’s good, so there’s a lot of competition,” Stephens said.
Granstrand said he understands how important Stephens’ play is to the success of the team. She was the team’s leading point scorer last season, and is currently leading the team in points this season. The offense runs through her and fellow co-captain senior forward Kari Buckel.
“We’re only as good as our seniors, as far as work ethic and how we handle ourselves on and off the field. As far as we go is determined by Dana, by the captains,” Granstrand said.
Stephens is majoring in elementary education and has a double minor in physical education and integrated science. She is happy that soccer has given her the opportunity to go to school in the Upper Peninsula.
“I think it’s gorgeous up here; I love it. If it wasn’t for soccer I wouldn’t be up here, but I’m glad that it brought me up here because I do enjoy it,” Stephens said.
Stephens and the rest of the seniors can be seen in action on Saturday, Oct. 30 at 12 p.m. as they host the rival Michigan Tech Huskies for the seniors’ last regular season home game at the outdoor fields.