Soccer - Girls

Anderson duo taking their Titan ways to Schoolcraft

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Next year there will be a little bit of Anderson on the Schoolcraft girl’s soccer team.

Current teammates Jen Ibarra and Cynthia Konan will be journeying down the post-high school path together and rejoining on the pitch in Livonia.

The senior duo has spent the past four years together on the Titan’s varsity squad, and with a lot of hard work, and a little help from Coach Larry Lankford, are making their dreams come true and taking the next steps in their soccer careers.

Although the two have spent the past four years as teammates, they have very different soccer backgrounds.

Ibarra’s career started out 14 years ago after watching her sisters play soccer.

“I just kind of wanted to do the same thing as them,” she said. “I looked up to them.”

Ibarra bounced around a little bit when her career started, playing defense and then forward before settling into midfield.

She started thinking about a college career during her junior year.

“I thought about it and I was like, I don’t know if I’m ready or not, but my senior year I was like I really want to play,” she said. “I was kind of nervous at first, but once I met all the girls and everything, I was really excited and I can see it’s gonna be really fun.”

Konan’s soccer playing days began 10 years ago when she was living in Africa.

“My friends were all boys, so of course I got into the soccer game (but) everybody says girls are not supposed to play soccer,” she said. “I was living in Africa at that time and they were like, girls can’t play soccer and I told them I was going to.”

After coming to the United States, Konan started looking for ways to play soccer.

“I kept bothering my principal at the middle school, saying I want to play soccer and he was like okay, I’ll tell you when it starts,” she said. “That’s the only English word I knew was soccer; I Googled it and I knew it.”

Konan knows the hard work she’s put in over the years is now paying off.

“I definitely think it takes a lot to get to where I am today because when I started, I wasn’t that good and I never thought I was gonna play college soccer,” she said. “Now that I look back, I think my coach did a great job getting us motivated; I think it takes a lot of work and devotion.”

Like Ibarra, Konan too was unsure about playing in college at first.

“I got asked by my coach if I was thinking about playing college or not and I didn’t really say anything because I didn’t know if any college would want me to play,” Konan said. “When I started getting letters, I was like yeah, I’m gonna try it.

“I think I’ve got a great chance to show people what I can do (and) I’m ready to give it my all and get to a higher level if that’s where it takes me.”

Konan says she’s all about the team aspect of the game when she’s on the field. A defender for the Titans, she focuses simply on clearing the ball although she does has three goals and three assists so far this year (four goals, eight assists career).

“Everything is getting the ball down the field,” she said. “Get the ball out of my side and get it to go out so people can use it or do something.

“If I can score, I’ll definitely try, but I’d rather pass it than score myself.”

Ibarra says her team goes through a motivational talk before each game to get focused on just soccer and says it’s great when everything pans out.

“If we play well, you can see the formations that we have and the passing and all that stuff and it looks really nice and everything runs smoothly,” she said. “You feel good after a game.”

For Ibarra, who has eight goals and five assists this season (12 goals, eight assists career), it’s about not thinking about scoring.

“I don’t really think about it when I scored,” Ibarra said. “Usually when I score, I don’t really focus too much on it because then I feel like I’ll just mess up or something.”

Both girls credited Lankford with helping them take the next step in their careers and for being a great coach throughout the years.

“He is a really good coach,” Ibarra said. “He really helped us out from helping us through all our tough times and he always told us what we were doing good and encourages us.

“He’s also really easy to talk to.”

Konan says the relationship is the same on and off the field with Lankford.

“It’s always friendship; we always feel close to him,” she said. “If I have a bad day, I can go to him. He’s an open person you can talk to.

“When I go to college, I’m gonna be like oh my gosh, I miss when Larry and I used to do that and when the whole team would get Slurpees and stuff.”

The talent of the two was not lost on Lankford.

“These two I’m really proud of,” he said. “They worked really hard.

“They didn’t even discuss playing in college until midway through their junior year.”

Lankford said he urged Ibarra during a camp with Schoolcraft, but said she did the rest.

“I talked to Coach Deepak, he said he would watch her and two hours later he offered her a spot on the team,” Lankford said. “So, it worked out really well.”

Konan, according to Lankford, was a project when she first started.

“She’s worked really hard and where she is now versus where she was; she’s the best defender in the region, not just the Downriver League,” he said. “She was noticed by several colleges (so) we sat down and had a conversation about it.

“She had four scholarship offers before her senior year (and) all she had to do was decide where she wanted to go.”

Although Lankford is sad to see the two go, he says Schoolcraft is lucky to have them.

“Their grades have been great, their attitudes have been great, they don’t miss games and they did Southgate proud; and the coach,” he said. “They get along great and they’re gonna make the team that much more fun.”

Ibarra says it will take some time adjusting, but she’s looking forward to it.

“You’re unsure of how exactly everyone else plays, where I’ve played with these girls for four years and I kind of know how they play and what their strengths and weaknesses are,” she said. “It’s gonna be interesting.”

Konan says it could take some time adjusting as the newbies on the team.

“Obviously I’m qualified enough to get into a college to play soccer,” she said. “But the girls over there, some of them have played more than us. They’ve been playing for years and it’s definitely not their first time playing in college.

“We’re starting from the bottom, from scratch, so everybody’s gonna be looking down at us and I hope we do good.”

While the girls are studying different careers in college; a nutritionist for Ibarra and pre-med (with hopes to become a surgeon) for Konan, the two will still have each other for the ride.

“It’s just sweet,” Konan said regarding Ibarra going through the same journey. “I feel like I’m home; like I’m not going away.

“Even if I’m going far, Jen is with me. I’m not gonna feel lonely or anything and I have somebody to talk to and make fun of.”

Ibarra echoed Konan’s thoughts.

“It’s gonna be really fun,” she said. “We get along really good, so it’s gonna be fun just messing with her and making fun of her and working hard.”

Last Updated: 5/8/2014 7:24:20 PM EST