*This story was apart of the Hastings Tribune Fall Sports Preview. It was published on August 27th.
For senior goalkeeper Anna Stewart, patience and preparedness have been constants throughout the past two seasons. Stewart, who competed for playing time with Second-team All-Conference goalkeeper Brittany Toth in 2013 and GPAC Women’s Soccer Defensive Player of the Year in 2014, is prepared for her newfound, full-time starting goalkeeper duties during the upcoming season.
“I prepare for that the same way I would’ve prepared for this season, regardless of starting. I think that being in the best physical shape I can be in is a big piece of it, but I also think that being mentally prepared is important,” Stewart said. “Being a keeper, there’s a huge mental aspect to the game, so being ready, relaxed and prepared is important.”
Stewart, a senior from Portland, OR, was thrust into the spotlight last season following fellow goalkeeper Mallory Taylor’s thrown punch, red card and ejection against Briar Cliff in the GPAC Tournament Quarterfinal match. Stewart entered the game in the 51st minute, recorded a save and helped the Broncos hold on for a 2-0 victory.
Taylor received a mandatory two-match suspension, which gave Stewart a chance to prove herself. During her first start the Broncos fell to Concordia (Neb.) 1-0 in the GPAC Tournament final. After being the last team selected in the NAIA National Tournament field, the Broncos bounced back and picked up a 1-0 victory at Olivet Nazarene (Illi.) in the Opening Round of the NAIA Women’s Soccer National Championship. Stewart recorded five saves and her confidence continued to build.
After serving her suspension Taylor returned and got the start in goal against No. 1 seed Embry-Riddle (Fla.) in the Round of 16. Taylor and the Broncos allowed three goals in a 3-0 loss.
Taylor has since decided to transfer, which once again provides Stewart an opportunity to cement her role as a senior leader and starting goalkeeper. Second-year Head Coach Chris Clements is confident in Stewart’s leadership and potential as a starter.
“Anna Stewart is going to be a great goalkeeper for us. Her, Kayla Nelson and Jessey Peterson are our three seniors, so that’s going to be great to have senior leadership,” he said. “It’s going to be exciting and all of them are going to fill the (leadership) void.”
Stewart, who was one of eight players that lived in Hastings during the summer months, credits her teammates accountability in helping her get to this point.
“Having people here this summer has been a huge asset. It’s so hard to get up and run by yourself, so when you have teammates to say, ‘let’s get up at 6 a.m. and go work out’, that makes a huge difference,” she said. “That’s something I don’t know if I could’ve done that without being here this summer.”
Clements hopes those eight girls that stayed over the summer will encourage more to do the same in future years.
“We had eight girls stay here this summer and work with Sarge (Steve Schultz, Hastings College Strength & Conditioning Coach) and do technical work with me. Hopefully, those girls can be the poster board for more girls staying next summer, working out and taking advantage of it.”
The influx of returning talent, accompanied with the hard work put forth in the offseason, has both Stewart and the Broncos aiming for lofty goals.
“Most of our team is returning, because we’re only losing three seniors. I think we can do a lot of big things this season,” she said. “Making the final site is a big goal for us. I want to come out and be consistent, play well and just enjoy it.”