When Blue Springs South’s Nina Stine and Lee’s Summit North’s Alexis Mitchell played against each other during their high school careers, they were rivals.
After all, the Jaguars and Broncos often battled near the top of the Suburban Big Seven, vying for a conference championship.
During the summer, things are a little different for the two recent high school graduates.
They joined forces on the FC Kansas City Forte Elite U19 club team. This year, the duo nearly almost missed out on making U.S. Soccer Nationals. The team fell to EGA Maroon ’98 in the Regional Final 2-0.
But FC Kansas City got a second chance.
After another team had to drop out of Nationals, Mitchell and Stine’s squad were awarded a wild card entry got to punch their ticket to the tournament in Frisco, Texas. The top 96 teams in the country will compete for a national title beginning July 25.
“There was a draw for all of the second-place teams in the region, so we were in that draw,” said Mitchell, the Class 4 Player of the Year in Missouri. “I am like, ‘We have a really good chance to go to Nationals.’ There was a debate going back and forth on two things. Then the next thing we know we get an email saying, ‘We’re going Nationals. Get ready for training.’ And we were like, ‘Whoa, we get second chance.”
For Mitchell and Stine, they both felt a sense of relief when finding out they made the tournament.
“I was really excited because we’ve been there so many times before,” said Stine, who will play at UMKC. “It was a real bummer that we didn’t get to go our senior year. It was really exciting to get another shot.”
Added Mitchell, who signed a letter of intent to play at the University of South Dakota: “I was very excited to hear that. I was about to start my training with my college team after we lost in Regionals. They were worried about me getting hurt. But once I found out we were going to Nationals, I told my college coach and she was excited for me and said it was a great opportunity.”
And Stine and Mitchell will get to play with each other one last time. They both plan on enjoying the moment. Although they are on rival high school teams, they like being on the same team during the summer.
“When we play against each other we have so much respect for one another,” Mitchell said. “When we play with each other, we have a great chemistry. I love playing with (Nina). Whenever I get the ball, I do everything I can to get up because I know she will get the ball across and she will get a good shot off. She is a teammate that I can rely on.”
Stine said she feels the same way about Mitchell.
“She’s just a good all-around player,” Stine said of Mitchell. “She distributes the ball really well. I think she had a couple of assists in Regionals that were instrumental in us winning. I am excited to play with her one last time before college starts.
“We were able to build chemistry because she knows exactly what I want to do from playing against me in high school.”
They even got the experience of practicing with a FC Kansas City boys club team last year.
“We often car-pooled together during the fall and winter to play with the boys,” Mitchell said of her and Stine. “It was a big help playing with the boys because they were more vocal and much faster and much more physical. It got me to open up and get out of our comfort zone. Nina and I would partner up to be less intimidated. We earned their respect.”
In the team’s previous three visits to Nationals, the furthest it advanced was in the semifinals during Stine and Mitchell’s sophomore campaign. The Eastern Jackson County duo will be aiming for a similar deep run this time around.
“It would be awesome if we were able to (win the tournament),” Stine said. ”But we would be happy getting out of our pool.”
Added Mitchell: “We are going to play against some teams that we played against in the past, so we’re excited to play them again. We’ll probably play some California and Florida teams we’ve never played before.”