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Alcovy girls soccer feels culture shift amid a turnaround season for program
AHS Girls soccer
File Photo - photo by Phillip B. Hubbard

COVINGTON, Ga. — Brighter days have arrived for the Alcovy Lady Tigers in 2023. This season’s result has allowed for a culture shift within the program, too. 

Tania Menchaca, a sophomore, highlighted how this year’s success has penetrated past the soccer field. 

“I do believe that we are getting way more recognition as a result of the success,” Menchaca said. “For example, we have a lot more people coming to our home games than we did last year. And we are definitely working hard to keep our names out there.” 

Tania Menchaca (15) advances the ball up the field against Rockdale County in a home Region 3-AAAAAA match on Monday, March 6. - photo by Phillip B. Hubbard

Alcovy currently stands at 3-3 overall including a 2-2 record in Region 3-AAAAAA. This comes after the Lady Tigers only won a single match in the last three seasons. 

Albeit a COVID-19 shortened 2020 season plus the struggle of fielding a team in 2021 are among the factors behind the recent slump. However, as the lone senior on this team, Sheylin Pantoja recognized the team’s development from where it was previously. 

The program has progressed so much in a good way,” Pantoja said. “It was rough at the start and two years were taken from us by COVID. But returning from that we were getting somewhere but the team was missing something and we needed to improve a lot. Now the program is strong and I can tell it’s going to just get stronger from now on and I can’t wait to see what they do these next seasons.” 

This season, the Lady Tigers are under the direction of first-year head coach Ashley McHenry, who also coaches Alcovy’s volleyball team. Earlier in the season, McHenry stressed how she felt like the players were close. 

Pantoja concurred by saying that seems to be a main difference compared to years past. 

“The team has a better bond this year and is working hard all together,” Pantoja said. “It felt like last year we were playing individually and it wasn’t a team for the most part and everyone isnt putting effort in unlike this year everyone is contributing and working hard together to reach our goal, which is to win.” 

On top of that, Menchaca said how the coaching staff has served as proponents for this year’s turnaround. 

“Before and after every game and even every practice, coach McHenry always gives us an uplifting speech to motivate us,” Menchaca said. “Our assistant coach, Mrs. Precious, is also our biggest supporter. You will always hear her yelling and cheering us on from the sidelines during the games. She always knows how to cheer us up and hype us up.” 

Alcovy bounced back from an 0-2 start to this year, falling to Locust Grove and Forest Park by a combined 10-0. The Lady Tigers’ rebounded with a 10-0 win over McDonough on Feb. 7 — the program’s first win since a 3-2 over Salem on March 21, 2022 — followed by a 7-1 win over region foe Morrow six days later. 

Feb. 13’s win was nearly five years removed from Alcovy’s last region win, which was a 5-1 triumph over Evans on March 9, 2018. 

The Lady Tigers then suffered an 3-2 overtime loss to Mundy’s Mill on Feb. 28, but got back in the win column by shutting out Rockdale County 2-0 on March 6. 

Right now, Alcovy is placed fourth in the region standings, which would qualify it for the state playoffs with three games remaining. 

AHS GIrls soccer 1
Sheylin Pantoja (13) defends a Lady Bulldog during the Lady Tigers’ 2-0 victory. Pantoja is the lone senior on this year’s team and plays center-back defense. - photo by Phillip B. Hubbard

And, even though the Lady Tigers are excited with the success thus far, they recognized there’s more left on the table for this group. 

“To continue our growing success, we as a team can work on continuing to fight despite what the score is,” Menchaca said. “Even if we are in the lead, we have to keep fighting to keep it that way because that cost us a game this season.” 

But, no matter what the remainder of the 2023 season holds, there seems to be a consensus throughout the program: The best days of Lady Tigers soccer are still to come. 

Pantoja is especially excited about how bright the future of the team is. 

“This season has shown us and others what Alcovy girls soccer is capable of and what it can be,” Pantoja said. “I hope that the girls continue to play together, support each other and most importantly remember to have fun and enjoy it.”