The idea of capturing the state's highest individual soccer honor always sat in the mind of Danielle Stephan.
The midfielder said she understood the importance of Michigan's Miss Soccer award when she first stepped foot in the halls of DeWitt High School four years ago. However, it wasn't until her junior year, she said, that she believed the opportunity to obtain the prestigious title was within reach.
A year later, it became a reality.
The Michigan High School Soccer Coaches Association announced Monday that Stephan is Miss Soccer for the 2017 season.
Head coach Jamal Mubarakeh, who has been at the helm of the Panthers' program for the last 21 seasons, said the senior is the program's first-ever player to be given the sport's highest accolade.
Stephan is the Lansing area’s first player to earn the award since Holt grad Megan Pipkens did in 2003.
"I remember a few years back, when I was just starting, thinking about how cool it would be and how great of an accomplishment it is as a soccer player," Stephan said. "After hearing that I won it this year, I was like, 'That's awesome. There's no way I did that.' I should be proud because it's pretty cool. And I am (proud)."'
Stephan, who scored 57 goals and had 59 assists during her four-year varsity career, finished her senior season with 14 goals and 10 assists.
She missed a few matches early in the season after being invited to the U.S. Under-19 Women's National Team training camp in Sunrise, Florida. The midfielder was one of 26 players who attended the camp and was the only one representing Michigan.
Stephan, who is a three-time Division 2 first team all-state selection, helped DeWitt reach the regional semifinals the past two seasons. As a sophomore, she was key part in the Panthers' run to the state semifinals — they lost, 1-0, to eventual state champion Richland Gull Lake.
The senior said helping DeWitt get a state championship during her career was something she wanted to get done before exiting high school.
"I can say with confidence, every year that I've been at DeWitt, we've been a really strong team all four of those years," Stephan said. "I guess I'm disappointed that we couldn't do it, because I know we had the ability, talent, and coaches and players to make it happen. And the community behind us.
"It stinks, but we've done a lot of great things over the years."
The DeWitt grad will make her way to Michigan State this summer to further her soccer career. She said she chose to play for MSU because she has always envisioned herself as a Spartan, and the opportunity to play near her family and friends was a draw, as well.
Stephan said she hopes to contribute right away at the college level.
"I like to hold myself to a higher standard," she added. "Like people say, 'You are your biggest critic.'
"Miss Soccer is something I take pride in because I think it's really cool and I think I've worked really hard. I have had the players and coaches to push me in order to get that (award). But going into college, there are other goals and other things that I'd like to do. Although I have this under my belt, I think I still have so much more that I need to move forward with and keep trying to achieve."