By Lori Bredemeyer, Staff Writer
Stealing the ball from the opponent, she races toward the goal, her teammates cheering and yelling encouragement. She fakes left, goes right, shoots the ball and scores.
This sounds like an ACU basketball game, but it’s not.
It’s ACU soccer.
Many students and employees are unaware of the presence of ACU’s women’s club soccer team because it is a club, not a varsity team.
The soccer club recently has grown in size and received a field on which to play, but the idea of adding a varsity soccer team is still a long way off.
Although no formal plans have been made to create a varsity soccer team, Shanon Hays, director of athletics, said ACU is taking steps to comply with Title IX, a federal law that prohibits gender discrimination in education programs receiving federal funding.
“Soccer is very good for Title IX issues because you add a lot of female participants,” Hays said. “I don’t see soccer coming in the near future, but I think it’s in our future.”
Cassey O’Connor, sophomore English major from Belmont, Calif., and club member, said the club’s coach told her ACU would have a varsity team by 2002 when she was applying for admission.
Budget cuts have forced the target date back to the fall of 2005, but O’Connor said the club still gives women a chance to play soccer.
“It gives people something to do that’s not incredibly competitive,” she said. “But they can still get exercise and have a good time and travel a little bit.”
The team plays other soccer club teams, driving as far as Lubbock for games. John Hanson established the soccer club in 1996 and now manages and coaches the team.
Hanson said the club members would play well on a varsity team.
“They gel well as a team,” he said. “If they practiced every day with professional coaches they’d be really good. It’s a good nucleus to start from.”
ACU is one of 16 Lone Star Conference universities, seven of which do not have a varsity soccer team.
Hays attributes this to a lack of money and said most soccer teams begin with a large donation or endowment fund.
“I think a lot of Division II schools in this part of the state are in the same boat as us,” Hays said. “Funding is stretched and they’re trying to make it on what they have.”
In the last few years the soccer club has practiced on the intramural fields, but ACU recently obtained use of the Taylor Elementary School field across E.N. 16th Street from Gardner Residence Hall.
ACU acquired the fields to resolve time conflicts between the soccer club and intramural flag football, both of which were practicing and playing on the intramural fields.
The new field is used for soccer activities on weekends and after 3:30 p.m. on weekdays for practices and games. Danny Kittley, director of intramurals, said ACU made a deal with Abilene Independent School District to use the field and has since sown the grass and installed a sprinkler system.
He said plans are being made to install lights on the field by June 2003 so the soccer club can play night games and ACU can play host to tournaments.
The intramural program helps fund the club, but members pay for the rest. Hanson said members pay $20 each month for referees, uniforms and balls. In addition, the women pay for their own travel, lodging and food.
Since its beginning six years ago, the soccer club has had trouble finding enough women to play because of lack of publicity. This year about 35 women are on the roster.
Annick Kanyamuneza, senior nursing and exercise science major from Burundi, said small teams in the past have made playing.
“This semester is more fun because we can make two teams and play during practice,” she said, “but it’s hard to do that when you have five people showing up for practice. One game we didn’t have enough players so we had to borrow some players from the other team.”
Having a low profile also costs the club support from fans, said Cassi Roberts, sophomore exercise science major from Round Rock, in an e-mail interview.
“I think that we are good enough to get some recognition,” she said. “We deserve the opportunity to show everyone that we are serious about our sport.”
Having too few team members and fans can discourage a club, but Amanda Pope, youth and family ministry major from Longview, Wash., said in an e-mail interview she is encouraged by her teammate’s commitment.
“Because they play even when it isn’t a school sponsored team, I think they deserve a lot more credit than they get,” she said. “These girls come out just because they love soccer.”
Candice Roberts, sophomore exercise science major from Round Rock, said in an e-mail interview that she also is encouraged by the players’ dedication.
“I think the soccer team is a lot stronger than last year,” she said. “We could be very good if we all wanted the same goal and worked to achieve that goal.”
The club plays in the fall and spring, and Hanson said he has already lined up games for the spring against University of Texas at Permian Basin, Lubbock Christian University, University of Texas at Arlington, McMurry University and Hardin-Simmons University.
He said that although the women’s club is small and doesn’t get much attention, the players represent ACU well.
“It’s a great bunch of girls with fantastic attitudes,” he said.
Practice takes place at the Taylor Elementary field at 5 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.