116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS – The Mount Mercy women’s soccer team has a goalkeeper who is wired differently.
“One word to describe me could be fearless,” Mustangs sophomore Grace Byers said. “I’m not afraid to get on the ground or make contact. I’m also very talkative.”
The Marion native found her place on ball fields because of it.
“I was not one of those kids picking grass,” Byers said. “I loved running around and the competition. I had a lot of fun doing it.”
Starting at age 5 with an AYSO league led to years of being coached in softball by her dad Jim and being hauled around to soccer and softball tournaments with her mom Teresa and older brother Will.
“I’ve always been very grateful for them allowing me different opportunities when it came to soccer or other sports,” Byers said. “I always have someone watching and that’s a great feeling to have.”
Now, after four years of playing varsity soccer at Marion and two years with Mount Mercy, Byers has added assistant coaching duties at Marion. Marion is 5-3 and has won four straight.
“I am enjoying it quite a bit,” Byers said. “I’ve gained a lot of confidence from coaches and have been able to build my leadership skills. It’s good for girls to be able to learn these things and be able to implement them into other parts of their life. I like being that influence for other girls and women. That empowerment is always a good thing.”
On the pitch, Byers and the Mustangs are looking to build each day after welcoming a new coach, Alen Kudumovic, in the middle of the pandemic.
“I’m not so much focused on wins and losses,” Byers said. “I just want our team to improve and work together better.”
Winning is easier said than done in the Heart of America Conference, which includes three teams ranked in the Top 25 of NAIA and eight of the 13 members owning records above .500.
During a season that started in the fall, like it usually does, but finished in the spring, due to COVID — Mount Mercy finished 1-13 overall and 0-11 in league play.
Byers started three games in goal and had 11 saves. Sarah Johnson, a senior from Clear Creek Amana, made 11 starts in goal with 115 saves.
With two years left before graduation, Byers and her squad are trying to achieve goals not yet obtained by the Mustangs, who started playing in 2002.
“I want to have a winning season,” Byers said. “We’ve never had that as a program.”