In her second season at the collegiate soccer level, Paige Kanipes is a starting sophomore defender for the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks.

With back-to-back losses in Southland Conference play, Stephen F. Austin has gotten off to a slow start and is now 1-4 in conference and 4-8 for the season.

“I am ready to win,” Kanipes said. “Last year we came up short in conference tournament, so I am ready to fight for a ring and another conference title hopefully this season. I know we’ve started off a bit rough, but I believe in this team because of our chemistry.”

Kanipes grew up in Houston attending Clear Lake High School. But her father, Mark, was raised in Angleton and currently is the head football coach for the Brazosport Exporters.

Paige Kanipes started playing soccer in kindergarten and played different positions through the years in league ball and club ball. It wasn’t until she was in high school when a coach suggested a switch to defense.

“I grew up on the attacking side of the field, but once I switched to defense I think it suited me better to play that position, because I am very aggressive,” she said.

A four-year starter for Clear Lake through her high school career on varsity, Kanipes made sure she wasn’t going to be a weak link on the defensive side and became motivited to be the best she could be on that side of the ball.

“I just love playing defense, whether it’s heading the ball or just putting a body on somebody,” Kanipes said. “Trying to prevent the ball from going in the goal is everything to me. I think it is very rewarding when you do make a defensive play, whether heading the ball out or making a great tackle. I just enjoy being aggressive, and playing defense gives me that opportunity.”

Recruited by several schools, Kanipes selected the atmosphere at Stephen F. Austin where she said she felt comfortable. Even as a freshman she was noticed. Because of her aggressive style, she was on the field from the start of the 2018 season.

“I had a good freshman year. I played a lot and went through some good experiences,” she said. “I learned a lot from my teammates, and the upperclassmen took us under their wing and showed us how to become more of a leader in a college setting.”

Kanipes remembers the first time she was on the field as a collegiate player. It was the Liumberjacks’ second exhibition contest, against the University of Houston.

“It was very exciting and nerve wracking. It was a thrill to be out there trying to win a game in college,” she said. “And I was involved in that victory, which was awesome to me.

“I got to play the last 10 minutes of that UH game, and I had this nice header to get it out of the box and keep the ball from penetrating, which was my first header ever in college.”

She finished the season with 294 minutes of playing time, getting in on 11 matches with one start. Kanipes knew she had some things to work on after her first year.

“I just worked on my possession, connecting the ball up through the midfield to the outside,” she said. “I worked more on my ball striking from my left foot. So far I am still working on it, but it’s getting better. Those were two of the main things I worked on all spring and summer.”

With six conference matches left, the Lumberjacks will have to put on some kind of win streak to finish out strong. The next match for the Lumberjacks is Friday as they travel to Central Arkansas to continue Southland Conference play.

“I am into these games whenever I am in there,” Kanipes said. “Whenever I am in there I will put my body on the ball or a defender. I play with my heart.”

Sports has been something that she grew up with.

“Football has always been at our home, because of my dad,” Kanipes said. “I just love that atmosphere of the sport.”

Joel Luna is sports editor for The Facts. Contact him at 979-237-0160 or at joel.luna@thefacts.com

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