She took aim and kicked the ball as hard as she could. The goalie moved to block the shot, but it was too late. Autumn Penman had scored a goal for the first time in her soccer career.
It was Oct. 20 and one of the final games of the season.
Her teammates and fellow seventh-graders went nuts, running up to her and jumping up and down, congratulating Penman on a job well done.
“When she scored the goal, all of us were flipping out!” said teammate Ella Moskov. “We knew it would happen because she set her mind to it and reached her goal with hard work.”
Two months earlier, Penman’s grandmother Holly Foster signed her up for soccer, not knowing if she’d even get playing time. Penman has a learning disability and epilepsy, but she did not let her challenges keep her from getting on the field for the Niskayuna modified soccer seventh-grade team.
“The girls were very inclusive,” Foster said. “Coach K is really great.”
Coach K is Cheryl Kuzniar, a Niskayuna Central School District teacher and the seventh-grade team’s coach.
“Her teammates worked really hard to help [Penman] get a goal,” Kuzniar said. “They wanted her to be successful. The whole team rallies around her.”
Penman started practicing with the team in August. Foster said Kuzniar wanted Penman to attend 10 practices before taking the field.
“[She] didn’t miss a practice,” Foster said of her granddaughter. “She met her goal. Coach K was really good about bringing the girls around Autumn.”
When she took the field, Penman played striker, an offensive position. She enjoyed playing the position, but more than that, she enjoyed being with her friends and being part of the team.
“I liked seeing friends and being part of a group,” Penman said. “The pasta parties are fun.”
And her friends liked seeing her.
“I think Autumn really brings joy to our team,” said co-captain and team goalie Maddie Mills. “She is one of the happiest and hard-working people I know. If we are all sad that we were losing a game, she makes us all happy again because she is always smiling.
Co-captain Ava Mauriello agreed.
“Autumn was a very encouraging teammate,” Mauriello said. “We could often hear her encouraging us saying things like, ‘nice try.’ She was also a very funny teammate and brought happiness to the team because she was always smiling.”
Penman said she didn’t expect to score the goal against Mohonasen but was excited when she did. Her family was in the crowd, cheering and emotional as the ball found the back of the net.
While the game was one of the season’s last, it won’t be the last time Penman takes the pitch. She hopes to play again next season and her teammates hope to see her at practice and on the field as well.
“[Autumn] is my teammate and friend and I hope she continues with Niskayuna girls’ soccer!” said co-captain Jane Biaglow.