GREENFIELD — Steven Bunch, Cathy Clements and Brody Stephens were just a few of the names written on luminaries inside the soccer complex at Greenfield-Central.
Walking into the Kickin’ Cancer Tournament on Saturday, those in attendance were reminded of the event’s main purpose from the moment they stepped inside the front gate.
Luminaries (clear plastic cups filled with lights) were lined along the walkway at the entrance of the facility. On the outside of each cup — written with a black Sharpie — were the names of loved ones who have been impacted by the horrible disease known as cancer.
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Clements, for example, is a survivor. Stephens, unfortunately, is just a young child.
Hosting the event for the third consecutive year, Greenfield-Central soccer players were again reminded of the joys that come with playing the game — and the sorrows than can happen outside of it.
In addition to the beautiful luminaries, the Cougars went all-out in their support. They gave away four tickets to an Indy Eleven soccer game and a Toby Keith concert in a raffle, conducted a silent auction at the concession stand and had T-shirts made — to name a few.
Each of the Greenfield-Central players wore pink socks on Saturday, as well, and greeted an individual in the crowd who has been or is currently affected by cancer with a special carnation.
The Cougars, who used a pink ball for live action during the tournament, also played the Martina McBride song “I’m Gonna Love You Through It” before the game.
All of the proceeds from the event will go to the American Cancer Society.
“It’s a way for us to honor those who have survived or are battling cancer now,” Greenfield-Central head coach Erin Clark said. “We are just wanting to make it bigger each year.
“This is about more than soccer. There are so many things bigger. It’s a good time to think about those people who are fighting in the hospital. It’s good for these girls to be a part of something bigger than themselves.”
Courtney Dunn, a senior on the team in 2014, wanted to find a way to honor her mom, Melinda “Mindy” Dunn, who battled brain cancer until her passing in 2013.
“She really helped get it going that year,” Clark said of Courtney’s efforts. “We’ve just been trying to keep it going.”
The Cougars accomplished their mission.
However, Greenfield-Central (4-3, 1-2 Hoosier Heritage Conference) didn’t just impress spectators off the field Saturday. In two wins for the tournament title, the host Cougars scored 14 goals in a 4-0 win against Lawrence Central and a 10-0 victory against Herron in the championship.
Sophomore forward Trystan Ailes scored once in the opening contest and was dominant in the second with four more goals to lead the team. She had a hat trick by the first minute of the second half.
“We came out a little flat (first game), this was our first Saturday of games,” Clark said. “(Saturday night) was a good opportunity for us to work on things we needed to work on, like playing some possession. We wanted to calm down a little and possess the ball and wait for our opportunities to go forward.
“The ball was coming off (Trystan’s) foot nice today.”
Freshman Jaeden Ailes, Trystan’s younger sister, scored three goals on Saturday while classmate Lucy Conner added a score in the title game. It was the pair’s first Kickin’ Cancer Tournament experience.
“The thing that popped out to me is who we were doing it for; the loved ones that have been affected,” Conner said. “We play for them in joy.”
She also said the positive atmosphere around the team has made the transition to high school less of a burden, which adds to the “diligence” the group has, too.
Clark said freshman Emily Davidson has put in quality work, as well, in addition to Jaeden Ailes and Conner.
“They gave us a lot of really good minutes on Saturday,” Clark. “It’s been nice to get some freshman in.”
Opening their season with two losses, the Cougars won back-to-back contests against Yorktown and Perry Meridian earlier this year. Prior to the two wins on Saturday, Greenfield-Central lost to Pendleton Heights, 3-1.
The Cougars host Heritage Christian today before a road game at Delta on Wednesday.