Freshman class leads hot start to seasonBy Ben Stansell | 08/31/2017 12:52am
From a spectator’s vantage point, it is easy to see how perfectly the word ‘special’ defines the class of freshmen who have helped lead Alabama soccer to a 3-1 record and a top 25 national ranking this season. However, when ‘special’ is used to describe the freshman class by one of its most outgoing members, Taylor Morgan, it takes on a new meaning entirely.
Morgan uses the term to describe of the strong bond they share and the individual character traits each girl brings to the team.
“It’s so fortunate because our class was 11 girls and so I came in with 10 other friends right off the bat,” Morgan said. “You know you’re not alone because you have each other and everyone is going through the same adjustments.”
Morgan’s roommate and fellow freshman Brynn Martin, who hails from Littleton, Colorado, echoes Morgan’s assessment of how quickly the freshmen girls became close.
“We help each other out a lot. With such a big group, we came in as a big family so it’s really nice to be close to each other,” Martin said.
With it being the first big recruiting class that he truly had ownership over at Alabama, third-year Coach Wes Hart knew that he needed to strike gold with the 2017 class. Hart was not afraid to search in previously discounted locations to find the talent he was after.
“I think a lot of our players were kind of off the radar. Players that we watched plenty and knew that they slipped through the cracks,” Hart stated. “We knew coming in that we had a damn good class, even if they were a little bit under the radar.”
Hart’s willingness to seek out hidden gems on the recruiting trail has translated to an influx of young talent that is helping his team win games. Hart credits the ability of the freshmen to contribute immediately to a large portion of them enrolling in Alabama last spring after graduating early from their respective high schools.
“Well, I think that the biggest thing that was big for us was that so many of them graduated high school early and came for the spring,” Hart said. “The spring is such an important time for learning and development and to get them implemented into our system and style. The fact that 7 of the 11 were here since January was probably the biggest reason why so many of them are having an impact right now.”
For Morgan, enrolling early and playing in the spring helped her adjust to the speed and physicality of the college game. Being 5-foot-2 comes with its difficulties, and Morgan is in close competition with Brynn Martin for shortest girl on Alabama’s team.
“Since I came in the spring, I don’t think I’ve ever been pushed around so much my whole life,” Morgan said, recalling how she was stepped over by another player on her first day of practice.
The spring was also an invaluable time for many of the freshmen because it allowed them to form connections outside of soccer as well. Freshman Casey Wertz attributes Coach Hart’s family oriented attitude to helping the freshmen seamlessly become a part of the Alabama soccer family.
“He does a lot of team bonding activities," Wertz said. "He had the team over to his house in the spring when we first came here and that was really nice because we got to meet each other before we started playing. I definitely think he’s a family oriented coach and that helps a lot because he just brought us in like family.”
With so much young talent in the cupboard already, Hart cannot help but be excited when talking about the future of the Alabama program. Hart wants to continue bringing in youthful talent so that Alabama maintains a blend of young and experienced players.
“Our intention is that every year we’re bringing in players that can step in and start so that we aren’t getting into years where we are in trouble and have to rebuild,” Hart said “We don’t want those rebuilding years. We just want to reload and keep going.”