By Kris Freeman for White House High School
WHITE HOUSE – There was a point in the senior season for White House soccer player Kaitlyn Stanfield and her teammates that all of the future looked hazy. Now, her projections are bright and clear.
With the team facing an early season quarantine and questions rising about the immediate future of high school sports in Tennessee, Stanfield and her teammates took the time to refocus and reenergize and prepare for a stretch run leading to a regular season district number one seed. White House returned from over two weeks off and finished 6-8-1, winning all five regular season district games and falling in the district championship and regional semifinal.
Ultimately, this opened the door for the senior forward to achieve her biggest dreams, and play collegiate soccer at Dyersburg State Community College in West Tennessee after she graduates this spring at White House. Stanfield ended her career as a Lady Devils soccer player 29 goals and 11 assists, and was a freshman on the school’s only state championship for girls sports. She plans to take her offensive versatility and ability to play multiple positions to the next level, and join former teammate Bailee Miller at DSCC.
“I was pretty proud of the way that we fought back,” Stanfield said. “After sitting out for those two weeks, we kicked it into gear and had to work hard. We really had so many things that were up in the air and we didn’t take anything for granted, and I was very happy with the way we came together and finished the season.”
Three seniors took the field to lead the Lady Devils this year under long-time head coach Mike Felzien. Those three seniors will all play collegiate sports, with Stanfield and Ashleigh Spurlock moving on to play soccer, and defender Alexis Bess going to play basketball. Spurlock and Bess are both attending Freed-Hardeman.
The hardest part during a COVID-19 crisis was just as the team was coming together and playing their best soccer, it ended on two excruciating tough games in the district and regional rounds. The Lady Devils played their last game against Hume Fogg at Stratford High School, on a muddy field with no fans, and their parents watching by video at home.
“This is what I am going to miss the most about White House is the family, the sisterhood, and the girls on the field,” Stanfield said. “But that last night was hard without our families there. Things had really come together for us and then it ended quickly and it was short and really abrupt. I miss it already.”
Those three seniors were among a small upperclass group on the team, with a bunch of freshmen and sophomores leading the way. Stanfield was no stranger to that approach, as her best scoring season came as a sophomore when Tennessee state player of the year Maddie Davis graduated from the state championship team and Stanfield was thrust into a scoring role.
“She was a three year starter for us, but that sophomore year was her best scoring year because we had a lot of pieces around her even after Davis left, that could feed her the ball,” said White House head coach Mike Felzien, who has led the Lady Devils for 23 years. “The thing about Stanfield is she is tough. She is aggressive and a very physical player. Throughout her three years as a starter, she battled some injuries and that’s attributed to how hard she plays.
“She just had a knack of being in the right place at the right time, and her leadership along with this seniors was very important to our success this season.”
Stanfield will join Miller at Dyersburg State, which is how she first found out about the opportunity.
“After playing with Bailee for three years, I first heard about this opportunity through her when she told me about her experience there playing soccer,” Stanfield said. “But I wanted to go to the community college route to take care of my prerequisites for nursing. Once I looked at their nursing program, then this decision was as much academic as it was an athletic one.”
Miller is a collegiate starter at attacking midfielder, and Stanfield is hoping to play forward.
“I have also played attacking mid before, but forward is my primary position,” Stanfield said. “I like being able to move the ball and work together as a team and pushing the ball forward to the net with an aggressive style of play.
“In club soccer, I have played with Ashleigh (Spurlock) for Tennessee United 10, and I started playing defense and then moved to attacking mid and forward. We are still playing together and it has been fun playing with her throughout my career.”
No one could have expected the challenges this senior group would face, but White House was not alone in the COVID-19 crisis. Different from others though, White House seemed to have a stretch of bad luck which finally snapped around fall break.
The Lady Devils opened the season at home, and the game was cancelled due to a thunderstorm 10 minutes in. A couple of weeks later after a win at Springfield, the team was placed in quarantine and could not practice, spend time together or play for at least two weeks.
“It was very difficult having to worry about not getting around too many people,” Stanfield said. “A lot of my family was not able to come even when we were able to play and that was hard for all of us. It’s hard to manage the consistency.
“And the end of the year was tough. Not having fans at the last game That was the first time many of us had ever played a game without anybody there. The game was not boring but that’s how the atmosphere felt. There was no one there to cheer us on and all we had was our teammates. I feel like Hume Fogg may have had an advantage having played several games like that but for us, it was new.”
Making that long walk back to the vehicles across a muddy field was the end of the career for she and her team, however, it opened the door to the future, and gave them something to look back upon as one of the most unique seasons in school history.
Through it all, Stanfield is thankful for the people that supported her the most.
“I just want to thank my coaches, and most of all my family, and my dad and my mom,” she said. “My family has always been supportive of me and at every game they were allowed to be. My dad (John Skinner) is the one who introduced me to soccer and I can’t say thank you enough for the investment my family made in me.”
Now for the future, her focus is on developing her career in the medical field where she wants to be a neonatal nurse, and helping to grow a Dyersburg State program that is new to the pitch in its fourth season. The Lady Eagles added the program in the fall of 2018 and are in the midst of building new facilities.
Coached by Robert Luttrell, the team is a member of the Tennessee Community College Athletic Association and the NJCAA.
The team has 12 games on the slate for 2020-21, beginning at home on April 6 against Southwest Tennessee Community College. The team plays home games in Covington at Crestview Middle School until a new soccer field is completed at the school.