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In Like a Lion, Out Like a Leader

October 3, 2014
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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Maddie Boone (center) leads the Lady Flames in team warmups with fellow team captain Rebekah Page (right).

The following feature was originally published in the Sept. 20 issue of Flames Illustrated. Maddie Boone currently has one goal and one assist on the year, starting all 10 contests as a defender. Boone and the Lady Flames play host to Presbyterian, Saturday, at Noon.

Personality tests often help people uncover certain character and psychological traits about themselves. Recently the Liberty women's soccer team took such a test, incorporating select members of the animal kingdom. When the results came back, the animal counterparts of the team's two captains were not much of a surprise.

"I was a lion," senior captain and defender Maddie Boone said with a chuckle. "Rebekah Page was a golden retriever."

Words used to describe people with lion-type personalities include visionary, practical, productive, strong-willed and decisive – all qualities of a great leader. Golden retrievers on the other hand are described as calm, easy-going, dependable, objective and diplomatic. Together, the combination of Boone and Page provides the Lady Flames with a dynamic duo of leadership – guiding their teammates with their words and actions.

"This year [Maddie] has really stepped up and it's cool to see her take on a more vocal role," Page noted. "I'm more of the quiet one, but I definitely support her in everything she's saying. I think we both have a goal to serve the team and work hard."

If hard work were a painting, Boone and Page painted a masterpiece at the team's first practice of the 2014 season. The team underwent what is known as a beep test, a series of 20-meter shuttle runs designed to test players' endurance. In order to advance in the testing session, players had to make it back to the line before they heard the beep.

As the number of participants dwindled during the team's session, only two remained – Boone and Page. In a matchup pitting captain against captain, it was the lion [Boone] who came out victorious over the golden retriever [Page]. However, the result wasn't as important as how the two players got there.

Page was a heavy favorite going into the beep test, having won the challenge with relative ease in the past. Boone, somewhat of a sleeper pick, wasn't known for her speed, but made it clear entering her senior season she was going to ace the beep test.

"Even though I was wasn't with [Rebekah Page] all summer, I was thinking in my head ‘I know how quick of a runner she is, but also how hard she works'," Boone recalled. "I've got to run with Bekah Page this test."

"I know she worked on it all summer because she told me and encouraged other girls to practice with her," Page added. "Maddie is already competitive, but it shows she was going to work really hard to meet that goal and she did. I know all of her hard work this summer paid off."

While Page is a constant presence for the Lady Flames in the center midfield position, Boone was her predecessor, commanding that spot during the 2011 season, a year before Page arrived at Liberty. However, the following spring, head coach Jessica Hain made a somewhat surprising decision, resulting in Boone taking her talents to the back line.

Boone's initial reaction to the move was one of frustration. After all, she had always been known as an attacking player, not a defender.

"I called myself a reluctant center back when I first moved back there because it wasn't something I was particularly happy about," Boone stated. "I definitely consider [the move] a big part of my soccer testimony. I had to lay it down before the Lord. It's not about me and that's something that I had to keep reminding myself."

Boone's change in attitude is just one example of how the entire group of Lady Flames came together last season to capture the program's fourth Big South Championship. Picked to finish seventh in the 2013 preseason poll, Liberty surprised many when it secured a No. 2 seed in the tournament and defeated No. 1 seed and two-time defending champion Radford, 5-0, in the finals. Around the same time, Boone was recognized for her defensive effort, earning all-conference second team honors.

"[Maddie] says she's a reluctant center back, but as she plays, she always gives 100 percent to her team and to every game," Hain said. "So whatever reluctance she had, she managed it really well, which is also a great leadership skill."

"Last year and this year, she has totally owned [the position]," Page added. "Her presence back there is so comforting. She's really good at what she does."

The comfort level that Page speaks of allows her and Boone to have a certain chemistry on the field. While the two have become closer off the field since becoming captains, they also work well together on the pitch.

"One of the unique qualities Maddie has as a center back is to see gaps in the other team's defense, hold onto to the ball and move forward," Hain stated. "That unbalances the defense and creates other opportunities for other players to be open. As Bekah recognizes those moments, she drops back to support Maddie. It's a great picture of servant leadership."

Once Page slips back into the defensive position, Boone goes back to her roots as a center midfielder, slicing and dicing through opposing defenders to create a scoring opportunity for herself or her teammates.

"The other team doesn't know who's supposed to step up to me because once I beat the forward, I'm technically not anybody's mark," Boone noted. "So they become disorganized, which I use against them. I really wouldn't say it's anything about how great I am. It's just taking opportunities."

"Anytime there's a chance [for Boone to move forward], I want her to do that because she's so good at it," Page added. "I think that's one of the things that makes our team successful and changes things up. I know that if she goes forward I'm going to drop back for her."

After playing together for two full seasons, Boone and Page understand in order to build upon their previous success, they must continue to work with one another unselfishly. Although the outcome of this season is unknown, Boone's decisiveness along with Page's dependability will likely remain a constant. The tandem's personalities may differ, but when coupled together, they are capable of passing any test.

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By Eric Brown, Assistant Athletics Communications Director for Liberty University