A year ago, Fossil Ridge senior Kirstin Oliphant did not know if she would ever play soccer again. Suffering a season-ending injury two games in, Oliphant has fought back to a current starting varsity position, and leads her fellow Lady Panthers as a captain.
Head coach Adam Webb has been impressed by Oliphant’s attitude and example during her recovery.
“She gets it. She understands the importance of hard work and teamwork,” he said. “She out-hustles everyone and is really able to lead her teammates without tearing them down. She is a tremendous player and her teammates respect her and her ability.”
Being sidelined for a year was tough on Oliphant.
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“I realized how much I missed soccer and playing with the team,” she said. “I’ve played since I was five and I missed it.”
Oliphant never lost sight of her goals.
“It took a lot of hard work, but my main goal was to come back in six months,” she said. “After surgery, I worked every day to come back faster and stronger than before.”
Webb watched Oliphant grow into her leadership role despite her inability to play.
“She was at every practice and every game, showing the other girls she cared. She was like an extra assistant coach,” he said. “They learned how committed she was to the team, and the girls, and it has been easy for her to be a leader this year because of that.”
Her intense commitment to the game and her team has helped Oliphant reach her recovery goals.
“She is better now,” Webb said. “With her injury and rehab she has learned how to take care of her body. She is so well prepared now and has learned proper conditioning.”
The striker agrees with Webb, and is just happy to be back doing what she loves.
“I feel like I am better than I was before,” she said. “I love to play with a good group of people.”
Despite a slow 0-1-1 start to district play, Webb is confident that his team is heading in the right direction.
“We are doing a lot of things well and have a lot of new girls, new starters and a new formation,” he said. “We are playing some incredible defense and things are starting to click.”
Oliphant is looking ahead and setting some new goals for this year.
“We went to the playoffs my freshman and sophomore years but couldn’t get past the first round. I am hoping we can go beyond the first round of playoffs this year,” she said. “Our team has a really tight bond and I am hoping to be a good leader this year and leave a good example when I graduate.”
Webb is happy to see his team coming together, on and off of the field, under the leadership of Oliphant and her fellow captains.
“My main goal is that they enjoy playing, and that if they enjoy what they are doing, then we will accomplish everything we are capable of,” he said.
Oliphant is bittersweet as she looks to her final season as a Lady Panther and beyond.
“I have already been accepted to Texas A&M University and I may try to walk on to the team because I don’t want to leave soccer,” she said. “Being on the field, I just forget about everything else. It is a good stress reliever and makes me happy.”
The Lady Panthers face rival Keller High School on Tuesday at home and host Keller Central at 7:30 p.m. Friday.