For the Michigan women’s soccer team, good things come in
small packages. Take a look at its important offensive
contributors, and you’ll find most are around 5-foot-5 or
smaller. Senior forward Stephanie Chavez, at 5-foot-2, often seems
dwarfed by opposing teams’ defenders as she goes up in the
air for a header or makes a run on goal. But that hasn’t
stopped her from amassing 52 career points and scoring three goals
this season, including her 20th career goal last weekend — a
game-winner against Iowa.

“As a soccer player she’s very good with the ball at
her feet,” Michigan coach Debbie Rademacher said.
“She’s crafty.”

Sometimes it does appear that Chavez is working a little magic
on the field. It can be seen in the way she will challenge anyone
to get her head on a ball and keep the offensive momentum, or the
speedy moves she makes on her way down the field that are too fast
for defenders to keep track of. The senior from Shorewood, Wis.,
has a fierce aura about her that inspires young girls on the
sidelines to shout, “Go No. 5! She’s my
favorite.”

“She’s got quick feet and she’s strong,”
Rademacher said of Chavez. “She’ll go up for the
head-ball regardless of her size.”

Chavez’s never-give-up attitude on offense has earned her
a lot of playing time with Michigan during her career. Chavez
started in 14 games her freshman year, scoring eight goals and
recorded six assists. The next two years were more of the same,
with Chavez showing a knack for tallying game-winning goals —
she has not gone a season without scoring at least one. Earlier
this season, she was named the Rocco Rococo Wisconsin Invitational
Offensive MVP. And after forward Kate Morgan’s season-ending
injury two weeks ago — she had been the team’s leading
scorer — Chavez might end up being the Wolverines’ most
valuable player on offense as well.

“Any time she’s around the 18-yard box with her back
to the goal, she has a knack for making a move and getting the shot
off,” Rademacher said, adding that in tight spaces near the
goal, Chavez’s size works to her advantage.

“She’s got good balance because of her size,”
Rademacher said. “And when she is going in on goal if she
gets knocked, we can sometimes draw a foul.”

As an experienced offensive player, Chavez is an important asset
to a young Michigan team that is still working out the kinks up
front. Whether it be setting the tone in practice —
Rademacher says that she scores the most goals in their scrimmages
— or leading by example on the field, Chavez is an
experienced goal scorer and a hard- working athlete, despite her
size disadvantage. And as the Wolverines enter the last half of the
season with their sights set on the NCAA Tournament, the spark
Chavez provides up front may prove to be much bigger than her
5-foot-2 frame would seem to imply.

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.