The sun beats down on a green field. Whistles sound, players take off and the crowd claps. The Idaho women’s soccer team is playing at Guy Wicks Field.
Senior goalkeeper Torell Stewart waits. Even when her team is at the far end of the field, she is engaged, shouting instructions and praise. As the players rush toward her, Stewart’s demeanor changes.
Her eyes dart back and forth, following the ball. She shifts her weight from left to right, waiting to strike.
With sophomore goalkeeper Amanda Poertner still in recovery from an injury, Stewart has stepped into the starting goalkeeper role for Idaho this season. She’s made 24 saves so far this season and played in every game.
Stewart started playing soccer at 5 years old. Her earliest memory is being the only volunteer to play goalkeeper.
“I was like, ‘I’ll do it,’” she said. “I went back there and they were like, ‘Wow, she’s pretty good.’ So they just kept me back there and I found something I was good at.”
Stewart played on several different club teams and for her high school.
“I played on a really good high school team,” she said. “We won state my sophomore and senior year. That was really awesome.”
Stewart said she absolutely loved playing club soccer.
“We were all really close,” she said. “Almost all of the girls on my club team went on to play college soccer. We got to travel a lot, it was awesome. It really prepared me for this journey through college.”
Stewart is one of the few girls left on the soccer team that weren’t recruited by Idaho women’s soccer coach Derek Pittman. He took over coaching in 2014, Stewart’s sophomore year.
“I think everyone was kind of a little bit nervous about that whole situation,” she said. “It is a new coach and you don’t know who it is at all.”
Stewart said she pictured Pittman at Idaho during the interview process.
“Once he started coaching us in the spring it started all like fitting into place,” she said. “It just kind of worked out but there was definitely some nerves in the beginning.”
Pittman was happy to inherit Stewart when he took over the program in 2014.
“She’s a very solid goalkeeper,” he said. “She’s developed a tremendous amount over the past three years. She played for us all of 2014 behind a team that was very fragmented at times and I think she continued to push herself and make herself better from a goalkeeper standpoint.”
After graduation, the geology major is looking to become a petroleum geologist.
“I want to go to grad school after this,” she said. “If I ever get to study abroad somewhere that speaks Spanish and do geology that would be perfect.”
Senior goalkeeper Faith Sugerman, who transferred to Idaho late for her last year of eligibility, said Stewart has helped her with the transition.
“I really enjoy her personality during training,” Sugerman said. “She knows when to be serious and she knows when to be more laid back. I can really appreciate that.”
Stewart said she doesn’t plan to play soccer after graduation. However, she said she would consider coaching.
“Working with Moscow United this past year has been really fun,” Stewart said. “I think if I can do that maybe for fun or on the side, but soccer is always going to be in my life.”
Tess Fox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @tesstakesphotos