Kickin’ Grass: The Fight of a Soccer Player

Shannon Aitken faced a problem as a young soccer player: she couldn’t breath while running.

An anxiety problem complicated her breathing and forced her into the goal. Now, Aitken returns to the University of Tampa women’s soccer team for her senior season. A second-team All-American in 2006, she has been playing for the Spartans since 2004 and has grown tremendously since. She now leads the Spartans into this weekend’s match with a record of 4-0.

Aitken recorded 11 shutouts and won 18 games in 2006. She stopped 54 shots and only allowed 14 goals.

Aitken started playing soccer in a recreation league in her hometown Land O’Lakes in 1995. She began her goalkeeper position at Pineview Middle School, where she started as a field player.

The pressure of being a goalkeeper increased her liking of the position, making her as dedicated as she is today. With having little time to make a save, she maintains composure while thinking what she has to do.

“When it comes down to a one-on-one situation, I think about the angle, what foot they are dribbling with, and the way they handle the ball,” said Aitken. “In that split second, I’m thinking about saving the ball and not letting my team down.”

The play-hard attitude on the field has shown through her dedication off the field. She attended numerous camps during the summer including the National Team Camp and training at the IMG Academy in Bradenton. Since the start of school, she only has time to practice with the team with an intense hour of keeper training.

Aitken is the type of person that you notice as soon as she steps onto the field.

“Her footwork makes her more aggressive than other keepers,” said senior Nicole Murphy. “Her communication has improved since going to camp and she is one of the fittest people on the team.”

The only setback she had was freshman year when she dislocated and broke her finger in practice. This limited her playing time as keeper, but she has come back strong with leading her team to three shut-out games this season, allowing only one goal in the past four.

While having a serious attitude on the field, Aitken is seen as a more lighthearted individual away from soccer. In her final year of the nursing program, she spends time studying and doing homework. She works part-time at Tampa General Hospital as a nurse technician. When she has spare time, she enjoys going to the movies, bowling and visiting back home.

Aitken hopes to continue to play soccer when she graduates next December.

“If the pro-league ever came back I would definitely go out for it,” said Aitken. “I’m not ready to give up soccer yet.”

One of the most memorial moments in UT soccer for Aitken was last year when the team went to the Final Four. Aitken and her Spartans will be battling for the title again this fall, and will hopefully bring the trophy home.

“I’m taking it one game at a time,” said Aitken. “I definitely would love to get back to the Nationals.”

The UT women’s soccer will be at Barry this weekend and Arkansas the following weekend. They will return home on Sept. 29.

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