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    Chris Stephenson has many reasons to be optimistic about his club soccer team going into the 2008 season. After all, the team continued its traditional success in the regional tournament last year, earning a bid to the national tournament in Florida.
    The majority of the players who helped to achieve that success also returned. He said he thinks they can provide the leadership to play deeper into nationals.
    At nationals last season, the team lost its first three games by one goal each time and was eliminated from the tournament.
    The need for leadership is amplified on the K-State club team, because the team is one of few college teams in the country that plays without a coach on the sidelines. Stephenson, a senior in chemical engineering, is the president of the team and also plays left midfielder.
    Last season, K-State was the only team at both the regional and national tournament that did not have a coach.
    Instead, Stephenson and the rest of the team found success through the chemistry formed by the players’ self-motivation.
    “Certainly coaches are valuable,” Stephenson said, “but that just goes to show you the dedication that the guys have. They put in three practices a week. They all work hard every week, and we have results to show for it. We just enjoy it, and that’s that.”
    Nick Gay, senior in electrical engineering, transferred to K-State after playing on a soccer scholarship for Graceland University, a NAIA program in Iowa. Gay said it was difficult to adjust to not playing every day. However, he eventually bonded with his teammates.
    “A lot of the players are just great people to be around,” Gay said. “They are like a big group of friends who love to play soccer.”
    K-State does not fund a Division I soccer team to compete in the Big 12 Conference as it does other traditional sports like football and volleyball, and because of this, students wishing to play soccer must do so on the club team.
    So after winning the regional championship, the team was responsible for raising the funds to transport its members to Florida.
    Deciding to become involved in the community, the team organized a soccer clinic, inviting soccer players throughout the city to share the soccer experience.
    “We love to help the kids out,” Gay said. “And we do a lot of clinics to try and get involved.”
    The team raised more than $4,000 and was able to make its first trip to nationals.
    Stephenson says K-State should consider funding a Division I soccer team and that the university has the potential to be reasonably competitive at that level.
    “I believe that K-State as the school and the players as individuals would benefit from having a Division I soccer team,” Stephenson said.   
    The season kicks off Sept. 7 against Washington University at St. Louis. Stephenson said he wants to continue the success the team experienced last year and use the experience going into the new season.
    While the team is not a funded Big 12 team, both Stephenson and Gay said they think they can prove K-State can compete in the soccer scene with the success of its team.
     “We want to prove that K-State has a legitimate chance at being a Division I competitor,” Gay said. “And we think that we have enough talent, and we can definitely recruit enough players to be at the Division I level.”

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