Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

June 21, 2013

Boyd goalkeeper ‘jazzed’ about Rio Grande soccer

Rocky Stanley
The Independent

ASHLAND — As of Thursday afternoon, Jaz Stephenson is officially living the dream.

Boyd County’s starting goalkeeper of the past three seasons signed a National Letter of Intent to attend University of Rio Grande, a perennial NAIA soccer power.

Stephenson set his sights on college soccer back during his youth league days.

“It’s always been a dream for me, since I was a little kid,” he said. “I never imagined that I would be on a team that good.”

During Scott Morrissey’s 24 years as head coach, the RedStorm has enjoyed a .760 winning percentage including a national championship in 2003 and runner-up finish in 2008. Morrissey’s tenure also includes 11 conference and seven NAIA regional titles.

Boyd County coach William Ferguson takes his team to Rio Grande’s summer camp each year and is well aware of the small Ohio school’s rich soccer background.

“It’s a big step for our program and a great opportunity for Jaz,” Ferguson said. “As far as soccer, Rio Grande is one of the best in the country in NAIA. They are always in contention, making deep runs in the national tournament.”

Stephenson wants to make a few runs with them.

“The tradition is great,” he said. “I’m happy to be a part of it.”

The All-Area player signed on Rio Grande’s campus and also took part in freshman orientation Thursday.          

He already feels at home there because of Boyd County’s past visits.

“They’ve seen me play goalkeeper quite a bit,” Stephenson said. “I’ve been on the All-Star team at camp the past three years.”

During his senior season as Boyd County’s keeper, Stephenson allowed only 1.7 goals per game as the Lions went 12-8-1 against one of their toughest schedules. The team finished as region runner-up.

“Jaz has a good, solid foundation,” Ferguson said. “He’s so athletic. He could make some unbelievable stops. You always feel a little more confident with Jaz back there.”

Ferguson knows Rio Grande’s coaching staff and is looking forward to seeing how Stephenson develops on the next level.

“It will be a big challenge for Jaz,” Boyd County’s coach said. “Their program has some top quality players every year from Brazil, England and all over.”

Stephenson can’t wait to get started.

“Their coaches have already given me tips on how I should train,” he said. “They have really vigorous practices. I’ve gone through a couple of them.”

Off the field, Stephenson said he plans to study networking and computer engineering.

ROCKY STANLEY can be reached at rstanley@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2671.