- Alma School District
We’ve only just begun 3/29/2021
By Kevin Taylor
The long bus rides to out-of-town events can lead to a number of things: sleep, self-preservation and friendly conversations.
But it's the pregame locker room chats, Lydia Bowerman learned about so long ago, that tend to be the real ice-breakers.
This spring, Bowerman, Ansley Kirkendoll and Ashlyn Chronister are playing out their final athletic games in a sport that needed them more than they needed it. Two of the three girls signed on to play for first-year coach Cory Sturdivant’s team during the program’s inaugural season of 2018. Chronister joined the frey in 2019.
"One time at an away game, we all sat around our locker room and told stories," Bowerman said. "I was a freshman, so I was afraid of the seniors. But telling these stories, we all got really close."
Bowerman and Kirkendoll are cheerleaders as well as soccer players — something the only child of Brian and Tanya Kirkendoll never deemed possible.
"I had no intention of playing at all," Ansley Kirkendoll said. "I remember we were actually in the middle of a play at the PAC (Performing Arts Center) and I got a text from my mom asking me, 'What do you think about playing soccer this year?'
"I had never mentioned it at all, but I was like, 'OK, I guess I'll play.' I had never touched a soccer ball until my freshman year."
Kirkendoll's fate was sealed the following day.
"The next day there was an open field practice," she said. "I felt really welcomed. I had never talked to anyone on that team and I had never met coach Sturdivant, but I felt very welcomed. I knew that I wanted to play after that first practice."
Four years later, the bus rides, those pregame talks, and breezy late winter practices are nearing an end.
But the friendships? They’re stronger than ever.
"I've had a lot of fun these past three years," Chronister said. "I've fallen in love with the sport, because of the atmosphere and the environment."
Alma seniors Ashlyn Chronister, Lydia Bowerman, and Ansley Kirkendoll.
"Each year is different as far as the atmosphere," Bowerman said, "but we grow throughout the year."
The legacy the trio will leave later this spring brings a smile to Sturdivant's face.
"It seems like it was just yesterday that we got these girls who had never really played," he said. "Obviously, they're involved in other activities, like cheer. To have those three come all the way through, they're leaving a legacy for this ninth-grade group that's coming behind them. We talk about stuff like that; we know we've been here for four years.
"Starting a program, I can't think of three better kids to leave a legacy for the next group."
Kirkendoll takes pride in doing things the right way.
"Being a part of cheer, It's not just about representing our school, you represent the program, and that's how it is with soccer," she said. "How you act can make other people feel a certain way about your program. If I go and reflect a negative attitude about soccer, that looks bad on the soccer team and nobody will want to join.
"But if I go out there with a positive attitude, that's going to get more people wanting to play soccer, and it's going to look good to other schools and other people."
The Lady Airedales challenged to score and still without a win during the spring of 2021, face Van Buren on Tuesday. This season's hardships bring sadness to what might have been this time a year ago when the coronavirus pandemic prematurely ended the 2020 season.
The 2020 team was talented enough to not only challenge for a playoff berth but to win a conference title outright as well.
"With last year's season being cut short, it really has been a fast four years," Bowerman said. "I think it's really cool that we got to be on the first team. I'm glad this program was made when I was in high school."
"I sprained my ankle in the second game, so I didn't even get to play after that," Kirkendoll said. "I was still in a boot when we got quarantined, so I never got to finish."
This season hasn’t gone as planned, not a month into the season.
But the Lady Airedales are here. They have no regrets.
“It’s really awesome,” added Chronister. “I couldn’t have asked for a better way to represent my school.I love coming out here every day and doing that.”