Madison's Kennedy Stidham. (Courier file photo by David Campbell)
Madison's Kennedy Stidham. (Courier file photo by David Campbell)
Madison’s girls soccer program has seen a distinct rise in recent years and no player has been more crucial to the Lady Cubs’ success than Kennedy Stidham, who has served as a team captain since her sophomore year.

That success has translated into a college scholarship for Stidham who on Tuesday signed to play with NAIA national power Marian College in Indianapolis.

It was an exciting day for the Madison High School senior, who was not only joined by family at her signing ceremony, but her soccer and softball teammates as well.

“I’m really excited. I met the coaches and they’re really nice and I’m excited to meet the girls and be a part of a solid program that I know that I can grow in as well,” Stidham said.

Stidham’s list of accolades can fill an entire sheet. An All-Hoosier Hills Conference Academic selection for three years, she was also an Academic All-State selection while starting all 71 games in her high school career. She was an All-HHC selection this past season and an honorable mention selection before that and was a second team All-State selection. She led the Cubs in assists as a sophomore and again as a senior.

This past season she was also rewarded for her demeanor on the field, earning the IHSAA Sportsmanship award and the United Soccer Coaches Ethics and Sportsmanship Award.

It’s that level of leadership and citizenship that has led Stidham to being the Cubs’ unquestioned leader the past several years.

“She’s definitely been one of our leaders. She’s been a three-year captain and started all four years,” Madison coach Janet Hertz said. “She has those accolades but it’s the intangibles that make her a great teammate. She’s very positive and she’s somebody that leads by example.”

On the field, Stidham was a steady force on the defensive end and it was her play that helped propel Madison to some of its biggest moments this season. Hertz credits Stidham’s play with leading to Madison victories over Bedford North Lawrence each of the past two seasons, beating Jennings County for the first time in six years and tying New Albany for the first time in program history.

When it came to finding a college, Stidham and Hertz took a different approach. Rather than try to convince schools to take a shot on her, Stidham instead chose a school that she wanted to attend then went about the task of showing the coaches what she could do.

That search led them to Marian where Stidham plans on majoring in nursing. Once the school was decided, Hertz contacted the coaches and set in motion the process of joining the team.

“It’ important that a student feel at home with a college without soccer on the table and once Kennedy found that university, I helped where I could to open the door and vouch for her abilites on and off the field,” Hertz said. “Kennedy is a coachable, resilient individual and has always put the team first. I am extremely proud of her on and off the pitch.”

“I really liked the atmosphere when I went and visited. It’s a smaller school and they have a really good soccer program and they were offering me a lot academically on top of athletic scholarships,” Stidham said. “So it was a opportunity that I couldn’t pass up.”

At Marian, Stidham will join one of the top programs in the nation. The Knights were 20-3-3 a year ago and reached the national championship game before losing to Keiser University 2-0. With only four seniors graduating off that team, Marian should be a title contender again this upcoming season.

“I’m always a student first. They made that clear. Academics always come first,” Stidham said. “I’m more of a midfield position and I think they’re going to try to move me around some and see what midfield position I work better at, whether that’s defensive or offensive.”

According to Hertz, Stidham is just the ninth Jefferson County girls soccer player to compete at the next level over the past 20 years and joins Mandy Stoll, who graduated in 2012 and attended Parkland College in Illinois, as the only Madison players to earn a scholarship in girls soccer.