Senior able to continue soccer career despite season-ending knee injury


East Coweta senior Kelsey Stanfield signed a letter of intent to play soccer at Truett-McConell College last week. Stanfield suffered a season-ending knee injury last month after earning team MVPhonors as a junior. With her were parents Jaye and Chariety Stanfield (seated); Standing, from left, are Truett McConnell coaches Jonathan Britt and David McDowell (head coach), East Coweta soccer coaches Todd Beldon and Chris Luppens, former youth coaches Bryan McDermott and David McCorkle, East Coweta High Principal Dr. Rick Waggoner and Athletic Director Evan Horton.

BY DOUG GORMAN Kelsey Stanfield wasn't supposed to end her varsity soccer career this way. The East Coweta senior, who played a huge role during the Lady Indians' run to the Class AAAAA state quarterfinals a year ago as a junior, was hoping to be on the field this season for one last shot at leading her team to a state title.
An injury, however, ended those individual hopes before February ended. During East Coweta's game at McIntosh on Feb. 17, Stanfield tore her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), abruptly ending the East Coweta defender's season. Now awaiting an upcoming surgery, it's relegated Stanfield from the field to becoming one of her team's biggest cheerleaders watching from the sidelines as the Lady Indians have jumped out to a 5-1 start. "It is hard just sitting around and not getting to play," she said. " But I still like coming to the games and supporting my team." Stanfield's soccer career, however, expects to have a much happier ending. The injury won't stop her ultimate goal of playing in college. Last Thursday, the Lady Indians' defender signed a letter of intent to attend Truett-McConnell College in Cleveland. It's as much a reward for Stanfield's hard work and unselfish play, having been thrust in net last year after an injury to current goalie Kristin Jones left East Coweta without a goalkeeper. When Jones returned this year, Stanfield moved back to a role as a starting defender. The team-first attitude has made Stanfield one of the Lady Indians' leaders over the past four seasons. Her unselfish move paid dividends in the long run as East Coweta finished 13-6, and Stanfield earned team's MVP honors. "That is just sort of the way she is," East Coweta head coach Chris Luppens said. "She's as humble as they come. She will do whatever the team needs. She was selfless in the fact that she moved into the goal when we needed her last year. That is what got her the MVP. She's just a class act." Making the move to goalie was an easy transition for Stanfield, even though the position was familiar enough. "I had played if before, so it wasn't that hard," she said. "I just wanted to do whatever was needed to help the team." Even with the injury, Truett-McConnell coach David McDowell is confident in his decision to sign Stanfield to the letter of intent will payoff in the long run. "I looked at the type of player she is, and her character," McDowell said. "I was impressed with both. When she came up for a visit, the girls all loved her. She was very personable and easy going." NAIA schools such as Truett-McConnell allow recruits to workout for the programs that are recruiting them, and Stanfield impressed the Bears' coaching staff during her visit to the Cleveland campus. "The weekend she made her visit it was rainy, and the conditions were sloppy, but she was still able to play well and with a lot of composure," McDowell said. Her mother, Chariety, is proud of the way her daughter is dealing with the adversity. "It is wonderful to see the way her soccer career has turned out," she said. "Just seeing her develop into a young woman has been amazing. I am really excited for her. We are bummed about the way things have turned out, we were hoping it wasn't going to be as bad as it was, but we are proud of the way she has handled it." Her father, Jaye, isn't surprised with the way his daughter has stepped up even as her high school career as been cut short by the injury, "She is a real trooper," he said. "There is not too much that really stress her out. She just sort of goes with the flow. She is really tough, she is determined she is going to get through this, and know she will." For Stanfield signing to play at the next level is an accomplishment that's evolved over nearly 13 years of playing soccer at the recreation, club and high school levels. "I am pretty pumped about getting to play in college," she said. College soccer scholarships are becoming a family tradition for the Stanfield family. Older sister Shelby is a midfielder for LaGrange College. Last season, she was an all-conference selection after finishing with six goals during her sophomore year. Signing with the Bears was an easy sell as soon as the senior visited the picturesque town located in the Georgia mountains. "I liked every one there," she said. "I like the coaches, and I just felt like I would enjoy going there." Stanfield hopes to trade her four years of playing college soccer for a degree in sports medicine. Once she has the surgery and gets through the tough and sometimes painful rehabilitation process, Stanfield is expected to make a full recovery. That means she could step in right away and play for the Bears as a true freshman. "We will count on some of our younger players to contribute for us," McDowell said. "She could see plenty of action. We are just waiting to see how the surgery goes, but we are looking forward to having her on the team." Luppens knows he will miss having Stanfield around his program. "She is a coach's dream for me because she will do whatever I ask her to do, to the best of her ability," Luppens said. "It speaks volumes to her, because she has a major injury and she is still getting signed to play at the next level. It says a lot about her character and the person she is."

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