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May 20, 2017
By: Daniel Stickradt

GIRLS SOCCER: DeWitt’s Danielle Stephan emerges as state’s top player


GIRLS SOCCER: DeWitt’s Danielle Stephan emerges as state’s top player

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BY DAN STICKRADT

CORRESPONDENT

dan.stickradt@northoaklandsports.com

Twitter: @LocalSportsFans

 

DEWITT — Danielle Stephan has come a long ways in less than four years.

 

The DeWitt High School senior went from being just a freshman starter on a state-ranked team to not only one of Michigan’s premier players, but one of the best players in the entire country.

 

“Everything that has happened…If you would have told me that all of these things would take place I would have been  like ‘I’ll believe it when I see it,’” joked Stephan. “I still cannot believe it. I am grateful for everything that has happened.”

 

Stephan, who plays midfield and forward, has fast-growing resume packed with accolades.

 

She is the leading candidate for the prestigious 2017 Miss Soccer award, presented to the state’s top player each June by the Michigan High School Soccer Coaches Association.

 

As a junior and sophomore, Stephan earned Division 2 All-State First Team honors. Last season she was also named the top player in D-2, earned All-State Dream Team honors as part of an 11-member elite squad presented by the MHSSCA.

 

Stephan also finished third in the Miss Soccer voting behind two players that graduated in 2016.

 

More recently, Stephan signed with Michigan State, her dream school, last November. But it was an invitation she received this winter to train with the Olympic Developmental Program U-19 National Team that really caught her by surprise.

 

Stephan was one of 26 seniors from around the country and the sole Michigan player to be invited to the camp, which took place March 25-April 1 in Sunrise, Fla.

 

“That was so cool. I honestly couldn't believe it when I first was notified,” said Stephan. “And when I got down there it was kind of surreal. Here I am with some of the best players in the country for my age group.

 

“It took some adjustment because everything there was so much faster, ridiculously fast,” continued Stephan. “You only get a couple of touches on the ball and you have to be able to be moving at a fast pace. But then I was fine. I learned a lot about myself as a player that week.”

 

Veteran DeWitt coach Jamal Mubarakeh is quick to call Stephan the state’s top high school player.

 

“I think she's perhaps the best player in the state,” said Mubarakeh. “You don't always have the pleasure to coach a player like that. She is so skilled. She has great vision, can distribute or she can score goals from 30 yards out. She’s so fast with the ball. And all of the girls look up to her. She makes everyone around her better.”

 

About the only thing that has eluded Stephan is a state title. Stephan collected 19 goals and 21 assists last season for a team that finished 20-1-0 and was ranked No. 1 in D-2 until losing 2-1 in the regional semifinals to No. 2 Pontiac Notre Dame Prep, which went on to capture the state title.

 

DeWitt is ranked fourth in D-2 this season behind a 5-2 record.

 

“I am honored of all the attention I have received lately, training with the national camp and being talked about for Miss Soccer. I have worked hard,” said Stephan, who guided her team to the state’s Division 2 Final Four as a sophomore. “But I would really love the chance to try to win a state title. We lost some good players to graduation, but we are still a good team. I think we would really like to make a run and try to win a state title.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stephan, a senior at DeWitt High School north of Lansing, is the StateChampsNetwork’s No. 1-ranked girls soccer player in Michigan. She is the leading candidate for the prestigious 2017 Miss Soccer award, presented to the state’s top player each June by the Michigan High School Soccer Coaches Association.

 

As a junior and sophomore, Stephan earned Division 2 All-State First Team honors.

 

Last season she was also named the top player in D-2, earned All-State Dream Team honors as part of an 11-member elite squad presented by the MHSSCA,. Stephan also finished third in the Miss Soccer voting behind two graduating players.

 

Stephan collected 19 goals and 21 assists last season for a team that finished 20-1-0 and was ranked No. 1 in D-2 until losing 2-1 in the regional semifinals to No. 2 Pontiac Notre Dame Prep, which went on to capture the state title.

 

She signed with Michigan State earlier this school year. But it was the invitation she received this winter to train with the Olympic Developmental Program U-19 National Team that really caught her by surprise.

 

Stephan was one of 26 seniors from around the country and the sole Michigan player to be invited to the camp, which took place March 25-April 1 in Sunrise, Fla.

 

“That was so cool. I honestly couldn't believe it when I first was notified,” said Stephan. “And when I got down there it was kind of surreal. Here I am with some of the best players in the country for my age group.

 

“It took some adjustment because everything there was so much faster, ridiculously fast,” continued Stephan. “You only get a couple of touches on the ball and you have to be able to be moving at a fast pace. But then I was fine. I learned a lot about myself as a player that week.”

 

Veteran DeWitt coach Jamal Mubarakeh realizes what a special talent he has in Stephan.

 

“I think she's perhaps the best player in the state,” said Mubarakeh. “You don't always have the pleasure to coach a player like that. She is so skilled. She has great vision, can distribute or she can score goals from 30 yards out. She’s so fast with the ball. And all of the girls look up to her.

 

Still, it has been a whirlwind experience for Stephan, who had just hoped to help DeWitt win games three short years ago when she was a freshman. Now she is one of the nation’s best players with a fast-growing impressive resume.

 

“Everything that has happened…If you would have told me that all of these things would take place I would have been  like ‘I’ll believe it when I see it,’” joked Stephan. “I still cannot believe it. I am grateful for everything that has happened.”

 

Stephan is also one of 250 players from across the country — all grades considered — on the Top Drawer Soccer All-America watchlist. She attributes one of her reasons to a switch on the club circuit which enabled her to play with other highly-recruited players.

 

Stephan made the move on the club circuit in 2015 from the TNT Dynamite to the nationally-renown Michigan Hawks of the Elite Club National League to further better her game. She has opted to play high school her senior year despite having the option to tour this spring with the Hawks.

 

Stephan said that she still would like the feeling of playing in a state title game and perhaps finishing up her stellar prep career with a gold medal. DeWitt is currently ranked fourth in D-2 to open the season, although two losses occurred when Stephan was in the national training camp.

 

“Everyone wants to be good. I am not trying to be arrogant. But everyone works hard to be good,” said Stephan, who helped DeWitt reached the state semifinals in 2015. “I am honored of all the attention I have received lately, training with the national camp and being talked about for Miss Soccer. I have worked hard. But I would really love the chance to try to win a state title. We lost some good players to graduation, but we are still a good team. I think we would really like to make a run and try to win a state title.”

 

If that happens, will she believe it?