After 15 years of playing soccer together, Bailey Brandon and Stefanie Turner are preparing to hang-up their cleats together.
Both seniors on Central Michigan’s women soccer team, Brandon a defender and Turner a goalkeeper, have been playing on the pitch together since they were six years old.
Because they went to different elementary and middle schools, it wasn’t until attending high school at Livonia Churchill and continuing to play club soccer for Livonia United that the two became close. Attending CMU solidified their bond.
“We’re together all day, every day. It’s hard not to be close,” Turner said. “In high school, you go home and may not see each other, and you just see each other in school and at practice, but, here, we live together.”
During freshman year, the two attempted to live apart in order to meet new people, but, by sophomore year, Brandon and Turner decided to move in together.
Although Brandon said they have similar living habits, there were still some things learned about each other that tested their patience, if only mildly.
Turner has a disdain for cheese and its stringy nature as it drips off pizza, which Brandon happens to love. Brandon also has a tendency to not clear the microwave timer of any remaining minutes or seconds — a small pet peeve of Turner’s.
“I didn’t realize people find that so irritating,” Brandon laughed.
On the field, the girls both agreed they balance each other out.
Turner admits to being too laid back at times, and Brandon said she knows she can be a little too energized.
“She’s got the drive and makes me want to keep going when I don’t necessarily want to, because she’s determined and she’s competitive and I want to jump on that,” Turner said
“And she reels me in. She has no problem telling me when to cool it or to pull me back to reality,” Brandon said.
Although Brandon and Turner were close in high school, they didn’t really decide together to come to CMU — Turner visited first to get the ball rolling.
However, once she knew CMU was the place for her, Turner then began working on convincing Brandon to join her.
“She told me how I needed to go to Central and how much she liked it,” Brandon said. “At the time, I liked to say I didn’t go here because of her. I mean, obviously I didn’t, but, looking back, I guess I admit it was definitely a perk.”
Playing in college was an adjustment for both Turner and Brandon, with Turner not clocking much playing time her freshman and sophomore years. Having goalkeeper Shay Mannino behind Brandon instead of Turner was something Brandon had to get used to.
“It was hard for me, because (Turner’s) always been behind me. Shay was amazing, but she’s different,” Brandon said. “I have no problem putting (Stefanie) under a little bit of pressure, because I know she can handle it.”
In their four years at CMU, Brandon and Turner earned numerous honors. Together, they have two MAC regular season titles and two MAC tournament titles under their belts from 2009 and 2010.
In 2009, Brandon was named MAC Freshman of the Year. For the 2011-2012 academic year, Brandon earned the Dick Enberg Scholar-Athlete of the Year award, and, this year, she was named MAC Defensive Player of the Year.
Turner joins Brandon with All-MAC first team honors this year, and they both have also been selected for the Capital One/CoSIDA Academic All-District V first-team.
This year, Turner recorded 11 shutouts and a 0.67 goals against average.
Sunday, Brandon and Turner failed to come home with another MAC tournament championship to end their careers after they were defeated 2-1 by Miami University.
Though devastated by the loss, Brandon said she’s hoping the team will be able to continue their season with a run in the NCAA women’s soccer tournament.
“Nobody wants to go out this way. We’ve been fortunate enough to be in the final four every year since I’ve been here,” Brandon said. “… We have our fingers crossed and hope all the hard work pays off and we get a chance to represent the MAC the way it should be represented.”
As their last year being able to call themselves collegiate soccer players draws to a close, Brandon and Turner both are preparing for the future with mixed emotions.
“We’re both going to miss soccer a lot, but we’re ready to start the next chapter in our lives,” Turner said. “Soccer’s been our lives since we were four and it’s kind of exciting and nerve-racking to move on to adult life. It’s completely stepping out of our comfort zone.”
Brandon said soccer has been like a security blanket, and soon she will have to step out into the world as the blanket is ripped away.
Conversations between the two have turned from what they will eat for dinner to what the next step is going to be as they step out into a world post-soccer and post-CMU.
Turner, a biomedical sciences major with a 3.85 GPA, plans to get her master’s degree at Wayne State University in genetics counseling.
Brandon, a law and economics major with a 3.94 GPA, will look for a job while taking a year off to prepare for law school and the LSAT.
When leaving the game, Brandon and Turner both know they’ll walk away with plenty of fond memories, such as Brandon’s winning penalty kick in 2009 against Toledo to advance CMU to the MAC tournament championship or this year’s 2-0 win against West Virginia where Turner recorded five saves.
But for the girls, those are just a few instances in the span of their lengthy careers together.
“I can’t tell you how many times she’s bailed me out, and I’d like to think I’ve kicked a few balls off the end line a couple of times for her, too,” Brandon said. “It’s not specific memories we have; it’s more the confidence of having each other. I don’t think people realize how much it helps when you hear the one voice of the person you’ve been hearing for so long, telling you it’s OK when you mess up.”
No matter where they go or end up as their lives take different directions, they both know they’ll be able to remain friends, telling each other that things will be OK.
“We’ll always be in contact,” Turner said. “Whether or not we’re in close proximity doesn’t matter.”