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By SHIVANI PANDYA —

It was double-overtime in game seven of the 2014 Stanley Cup finals. Los Angeles Kings defenseman Alex Martinez scored off a rebound in the 14th minute, securing victory and a storybook ending for the Kings’ hockey season.

Sara Stevens, a diehard L.A. sports fan and then an incoming freshman at Claremont McKenna College, was in the crowd with her family at Staples Center in Los Angeles when Martinez netted the rebound and led the Kings to their second Stanley Cup title in three seasons. Stevens refers to the victory as one of the best sports moments she’s had the opportunity to witness firsthand and describes the experience as “unreal.”

Stevens is the oldest child in her family, and attributes her love for all things sports to her father, an avid sports fan. “I was kind of treated like a son,” she said. “Rather than girly clothes, I was put in backward caps and oversized jerseys.”

This upbringing didn’t stop her from wanting to be a princess, too, but Stevens nevertheless fell in love with athletics. She was her dad’s companion at every USC home football game, loyally attended every Kings game, and cheered on every Packers victory from the comfort of her home.

“I know,” she laughs, “how did someone who is California born and bred become a Wisconsin fan?” That particular story goes back to her dad’s childhood and his own love for football.

Stevens is very much aware that being a female fan in a male-dominated space is not always pleasant. “It annoys me how guys are continuously shocked by the fact that I enjoy sports,” she complains. She recalls when she has had to recite stats or obscure facts about a sports team to prove her fan status.

As a former basketball player herself, Stevens identifies with three-time WNBA MVP Lisa Leslie as representing the intersection between sports and daily life. “It must be hard to consolidate basketball player Lisa Leslie and normal Lisa,” she observes.

Ever since Title IX gave women equal opportunity in athletics as men, there has nevertheless been bias against women in sports. But despite the room for improvement Stevens regards the sports realm as vital in a community.

“Sports teams within local space, states, and even internationally have the power to bring hope to societies,” she says. Her hope for this upcoming season is for the Packers to win the Super Bowl and the Kings to repeat as Stanley Cup champions.

But, she adds, “I’d settle for either.”

(Written by Shivani Pandya, edited by Terril Y. Jones; Sept. 17, 20150

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