The journey to her senior soccer season has not been easy for Abington Heights defender Rachel Stanton.
Even scoring her first varsity goal had some drama to it last week. Against West Scranton, Stanton made a run down the middle and chested a corner kick over the goalie's head and into the net. Even she said it was hard to believe it really happened, but it clicked when she saw her teammates rush to her to celebrate.
"At first, I didn't process it," Stanton said. "They were very supportive. It was a good feeling to get that attention for a few seconds. Everyone is happy for everyone else, and that's what I like about the team."
The goal was not reported anywhere because rain forced officials to stop the game with about 17 minutes to play in the first half and Abington Heights ahead, 3-0. The game will need to be either resumed from the point of the stoppage, in which the goal would count, or start from scratch, in which the goal would be erased. Lady Comets coach E.T. Hunter believes the game will pick up where it left off.
This unusual circumstance is the latest setback Stanton has gone through, but it is her perseverance over the last three years that has made her popular among her teammates, who voted her as one of the Lady Comets' three captains even though she hadn't started a game for the team in her career.
"I've tried to maintain relationships, handle the drama and make the freshmen feel like they are part of the team," Stanton said. "As an underclassman, I didn't base all of my votes on playing ability, but on other things, like work ethic. A captain has to be someone you can relate to and respect."
Hunter sees what Stanton contributes off the field and understands why she was picked as a captain.
"She has excellent communication skills," Hunter said. "Her natural sense of leadership gives her the ability to connect with all the players."
Every player on the Lady Comets team has to admire how far Stanton has come over the years, dating back to her freshman season.
Eager to show her talent, Stanton tried out for the team, and discovered she needed to get better when she was among those not selected. Not making a team, either varsity or junior varsity, as a freshman made Stanton work even harder on her game, and on her endurance.
"There were six or seven cuts," Stanton said. "My fitness wasn't where it needed to be."
It was a time where she had a decision to make, whether to give up the sport or to return more determined to be better.
"She came back more focused and driven to be on the team," Hunter said. "She came back more mentally and physically prepared. She didn't give up, and it made her work harder to get where she wanted to be."
Her sophomore season began in much better fashion, as she was able to land a spot on the varsity team, and she began seeing varsity action.
That is, until she broke her left wrist, trying to catch herself before falling midway through the season.
"I broke both bones in my wrist," Stanton said. "It put pressure on the cast to pull up to move my arm. I tried to practice as much as I could."
Her perseverance was noted as Hunter selected Stanton as the winner of the team's Most Improved Award, an honor she didn't expect.
"Getting the Most Improved Award was surprising," Stanton said. "I have a good work ethic, and it was reassuring to know that he [Hunter] noticed how hard I was trying to improve. [It also was surprising because] I felt like a lot of girls improved throughout the season, and played the whole season."
Entering her junior year, she faced a lot of question marks, like how would she handle getting back in shape after being in a cast for over four months, but spurred on by the award she won as a sophomore, Stanton attacked those questions.
"I went to the preseason training and felt pretty good," Stanton said. "I got in shape in time for the season."
Once again in a reserve role, the center back helped the Lady Comets to a District 2 Class AAA championship and a berth in the state playoffs.
She has the same role for Abington Heights this year and still finds herself coming off the bench. It's a role she has gotten used to, although she'd rather be starting, like any competitor would.
"I'm playing about half a game, not as much as I would have liked. I want to make an impact," Stanton said. "But E.T. knows what he's doing, and I have to respect that."