There is a place beneath the Bethany Lutheran College women's soccer scoreboard at the Vikings' home field in Mankato that is empty this season.
The chair where Vikings' junior goalkeeper Alexa Mowery's father, Brian, used to sit with a clear view of his daughter playing her favorite position is no longer there.
While golf and hockey were Brian's passions, his knowledge of soccer was less extensive. That did not, however, stop him from attending home games for Fairmont Area, where Alexa was the starting goalie for most of her four-year high school career.
BEST FAN — Bethany Lutheran College goalkeeper Alexa Mowery stands next to her father, Brian Mowery, at the Vikings’ women’s soccer facility in Mankato last season. Despite losing her father during the summer, Mowery has continued to excel on and off the soccer field due to the support of her teammates, family and friends. Photo Courtesy of Peg Mowery
Until this year, Brian rarely missed a Vikings' home soccer game.
"My dad knew the very basics about soccer. But it didn't matter because he'd be there under the scoreboard. From there he had a perfect angle to watch me play," said Alexa. "It has definitely been hard. I turn around and he's not there."
Despite losing her father a little more than four months ago on June 6, the soccer season - like life - continues.
"My coaches and teammates all came to the funeral, and that meant a lot. They've been so supportive. Another teammate also lost her dad this year, so the support is so great," said Alexa.
Alexa got started on the soccer field when she saw her older sister play soccer. Alexa tried it and really loved the game.
It wasn't until traveling soccer that she realized how much she enjoyed playing goalie, her position ever since.
"There was a game we played in traveling and I remember the coach asking who wanted to be goalie. No one wanted to do it, so I said I would," said Alexa. "I was good at punting and I really liked it. Then my mom started sending me to goalie camps and I only wanted to play in the net."
As a Cardinal prep player, Alexa earned all-South Central Conference honorable mention accolades as a freshman. During her senior year, she was named team co-captain and later named all-conference.
As a sophomore at Bethany Lutheran College last season, Alexa earned second-team all-Upper Midwest Athletic Conference honors, something that she is hoping to duplicate this season.
"One thing my coach is always telling me is that the ball has to go through 10 other players before it gets to me, but I really would like to get some more shutouts this season and earn all-conference again," said Alexa.
Despite the off-field difficulties this season, Alexa has earned four shutouts and has helped the Vikings to a 7-5-1 record.
"There is such a rush when you make a save no one thought you could make," said Alexa.
While her dad may no longer be able to attend the games, her mom, Peggy, is a constant presence at Viking home games.
"She is definitely the loudest parent at the games. It isn't just me that notices, all my teammates can tell when my mom is there also because they can hear her cheering," said Alexa.
Perennial powerhouse St. Scholastica lost its first conference game in 99 games at the hands of the University of Minnesota-Morris to give the Vikings an opportunity to grab a share of the UMAC championship and ensure making the final four tournament at the end of the season.
"We've made it to the final four of our conference before, but our goal this year is to make it to the NCAA tournament and I think we can," said Alexa.
For Alexa, there is still soccer to play this season, and from his different seat, her dad never has to miss a game.