There was a hint of spring in the air as we entered the stadium last week to view the Plano-Allen High School girls soccer match. The temperature was in the low 60s, and there was a wind that reminded spectators that summer isn’t quite here yet. For me, it was a bittersweet experience, as this was the final time I would get to see granddaughter Katie Pence play high school soccer.
Katie was a tri-captain of the Allen Eagles team and has played competitive soccer since she was in the first grade. While she will continue to play club soccer during the summer, this was one of her last times to represent Allen High School, and she is completing an excellent career as a two-year starter for a school with more than 4,800 students.
Girls soccer has grown during the past century and is one of the premier women’s sports throughout the country. And, yes, girls soccer is big in Kansas, too. Both Bonner Springs and Basehor-Linwood have girls soccer, and they will soon open competition.
In Kansas, girls soccer is a spring sport and its season is about the same as track, softball and girls swimming. Kansas’ teams play from late March, and the state championship is always in late May.
There was a reasonably good-sized crowd in attendance at the Allen-Plano game, but it seemed small because the game was played in the Plano High School football stadium, which seats close to 20,000 persons.
Watching the game, which was very physical, I had to think about how womens sports have changed. Largely due to Title IX, womens sports have grown in number and in community support. Girls athletics are now accepted, however, when they were first being discussed, I wrote an editorial in the Mulvane News in support of girls athletics, and I received several angry letters denouncing the idea. It took a while, but the public soon discovered that watching girls athletics can be as thrilling as boys sports.
We all know soccer, a.k.a football, is extremely popular in Europe, and it shouldn’t surprise anyone that girls soccer is an import. Soccer got its start in medieval days when whole villages competed in kicking a ball between the two towns. According to the sources I found, women took part in the mayhem, which often led to riots. By the mid-19th century, rules for soccer were approved and the sport moved to the mainstream of European athletics.
Womens soccer traces its heritage to the Dick Kerr Co. factory team. In 1917, the Kerr mens team was struggling and women, employees started complaining that they could do better. A game was slated between the men and women and although there was a news story about it, the score wasn’t given. The Kerr team was challenged by other womens teams and soon competition was underway. The Kerr team played exhibitions in the 1920s in the United States. Before the team disbanded in the 1950s, it had a record of 758 wins, 46 losses and 24 ties.
At the Allen-Plano game, the action got physical at times and there was one pushing match between players. The play was hard, and there was a lot of up-and-down action. There were shots on goals, great saves and frustration as shots barely missed the net. It ended up in an 0-0 tie, and in Texas, ties only go into overtime in state play.
There are only two sorrows that I have as far as Katie’s career is concerned. First, living nearly 600 miles away, I didn’t get to see her play all that much. Although she has scored three times this year, and I have watched her play since second grade, I have never seen her score a goal.
I am glad girls sports have grown in popularity, and that literally millions of girls have the opportunity to enjoy the thrills of competing in sports.