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Soccer player happy to return to A&M-Commerce, pass on wisdom

By Adam Troxtell
On September 15, 2010

Graduate Student Stacey McDaniel thought she had left A&M-Commerce behind in 2005. Her three years of goalkeeping for Lions women's soccer, classes and college experience could never be replicated, and all she could do was use it to further her career as a coach.

"When I graduated, I took a job doing junior high P.E. and coaching volleyball, basketball and track in Houston for two years," McDaniel said. "Then I moved to the high school level and became the head women's soccer coach at a 5-A school, Cypress Ranch High School, in Houston, and I did that for a couple of years."

She then decided to take up a position as a graduate assistant for women's soccer at A&M-Commerce at a time when the goalkeeping position was lacking depth. Junior Randi Hafele is in her first year as a full starter and freshman Elizabeth Lanier is coming off back-to-back knee injuries. So, when head coach Neil Piper saw McDaniel had another year left of eligibility with the NCAA, he asked her to be a part of the team for one last time.

"Stacey [McDaniel] played for us for three years, and she played some big games," Piper said. "She is a good goalkeeper."

McDaniel said getting back into the team is not as easy as she would have imagined, but she has enjoyed having the chance to play her favorite sport.

"I didn't realize I was going to be on the roster until a couple of weeks before the season," she said. "But, I was definitely, and still am, out of shape, and wasn't really expecting my body to be going through what it's going through right now. But, it's been fun getting out there, getting to play again, and having that opportunity. When you graduate you think you're done with soccer for good, so getting another opportunity to play is just awesome."

She started soccer at an early age, and said she chose it due to its fast pace.

"I started playing soccer when I was in second grade, just needed to do something a bit more active than baseball," she said. "I found out I really enjoyed it, I enjoyed running around, and my parents enjoyed me wasting a lot of energy."

Goalkeeper was not always her position, as she started out playing in the midfield. As she progressed in the sport, she said playing between the sticks became more of a preferred choice.

"I had knee surgery when I was in sixth grade, and I wasn't able to come back to the field right away," she said. "I was always the back-up ‘keeper just in case our club team needed one. I decided I would just try and do that, and it ended up being successful. I stuck with it, because I had lost a bit of touch in the field."

She played in goal throughout high school and said she was faced with the decision of staying in the game or leaving it competitively when choosing a college.

"I was being recruited by couple of different schools," she said. "Some of them were smaller than my high school, so I kind of threw them out of the picture. I was really set on going to Texas Tech, but I knew I had the opportunity to use my talent and what a waste it would be if I didn't. I just really prayed about it, God led me to Commerce, and it turned out to be a good choice."

McDaniel played in eight matches during her first season in 2003, where she started in seven, and recorded three shutouts. In 2005, she had seven shutouts and recorded a 0.30 goals against average.

"The team was great when I was here, I really enjoyed playing with them," McDaniel said. "Two out of those three years we made the NCAA tournament. We had a lot of chemistry, and I just really enjoyed the team environment. We really clicked, and it was fun getting to know them."

McDaniel said the university has changed a lot since she graduated five years ago, but it still has the charm that made her enjoy it in the first place.

"When I was here, it was definitely an older school, it was smaller, there still wasn't a whole lot to do," she said. "But, I kind of enjoyed the escape from the city life originally. Three years later I was ready to get out. I think I was missing my friends and family who were all in Houston and College Station. I like Commerce, the small town life, the peacefulness and the relaxing environment.

In addition to playing, McDaniel is also getting the opportunity to coach some of her teammates, especially the goalkeepers.

"Liz [Lanier] is coming back from an injury, so she's working back through it and doing a good job with that," she said. "Randi [Hafele] is great. She listens, she takes what I say and applies it. I look for her to be a real good ‘keeper."

As it was when she played the first time around, the ultimate goal for A&M-Commerce is to win a national championship. McDaniel said she hopes her experience in national tournaments before can help this current Lions team along to do the same.

"I have a little bit more wisdom now, and to pass that on it's great for them and it's fun for me to act as that coach and leader on that team," she said. "I absolutely think they have what it takes. I think it's one of the best groups I've played with and they absolutely have every bit of talent they need to win a national championship."

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