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Stepheny Davis working with goalkeeper coach Gio Riello at practice earlier this season. Photo by Steve Nalbandian.

When Stepheny Davis decided to go to Putnam Science Academy for her junior year, it was to play basketball. She had thoughts of basketball and soccer, but really, she was here for soccer.
She wasn’t at school for the basketball team meeting on the first day, but the soccer team had its initial get-together the following day. Davis went to that, “and now, here I am,” she said.
Indeed, Davis has landed on the Mustangs’ first-year soccer team. She was hoping to play in the midfield, but PSA’s roster, limited as it was, already had a number of very talented players to fill those spots. What the team did not have was a goalkeeper.
“I knew we didn’t have a lot of people on the team, and that we needed a goalie,” Davis said recently. “I thought about it, and then one of the coaches asked me if I wanted to try it out. I thought that if it would help the team, I would do it.”
The question then became whether having her in net would actually be a help. The first impression she left wasn’t exactly inspiring. But she was really all the Mustangs had, and despite playing only rec league soccer back home in Fairfield — and never as the goalkeeper — Davis found herself as the Mustangs’ starting goalie from that point forward.
“At first, no, I didn’t like it,” she said. “I was getting over my fears of having the ball flying at my face.”
Others weren’t so sure either.
“The first time I worked with her, it was a little rough,” said PSA goalkeeper coach Gio Riello. “It was her first time putting on the gloves. But the other thing I noticed was that she was motivated and cared about getting better. She wanted to practice and train and improve.”
Said teammate Elisha Clinkscale: “Our first game, she gave up two goals that shouldn’t have gone in. It was her first time ever being in goal in a real game. We tried to pick her up and support her. So to see what she did against Winchendon (on Sept. 21), that was crazy. It was such an incredible change. To see her do that on the field and be so confident was amazing.”
What Davis did was make 11 saves in a tightly contested 2-0 win in which her team played two players short for most of the game. She read the plays well in front of her, coming out on balls when she should have, playing smart and playing aggressively. PSA won its first two games by a combined score of 24-2.
“She was seeing balls and shots she hasn’t had to see to this point and she amazed us all,” said coach Jen Bennett. “She had a direct kick just outside the 18, sun in her eyes, and she made a great save. That was just one of many.
“She played an amazing game for us. She stepped up for us. She’s improved so much since Day One.”
Davis was proud of her effort in that game, and the congratulatory hugs and high fives only reinforced that.
“After that game I got a lot of congratulations from teachers and just random people in the cafeteria,” she said. “I was like, ‘Who was that?’ But of course it makes you feel good.”
Now the job is to keep going forward. And Davis, her teammates, and her coaches believe she is up to the task.
“I can do better,” Davis said. “But at the same time, a game like that does help me because it’s letting me think, ‘Hey, maybe I can make all the saves.’”
Steve Nalbandian
Sports Information Director
Putnam Science Academy

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