COVINGTON, Ga. — The Alcovy Lady Tigers soccer team has had its fair share of struggles this season, and although they have a long way to go, their first-year head coach is remaining hopeful.
That would be Jennifer Wieand. And at first glance at her roster, it may seem that she has a group filled with experienced upperclassmen, but their grade level does not tell the whole story.
While the 2019 version of Alcovy girls soccer is filled with juniors and seniors, many of these players lack varsity experience and are just now making the jump from junior varsity to varsity this season.
This is a tough jump for any player to make, and this group is most definitely having to grow up in a hurry after experiencing some tough runs of play this season. Wieand is still mixing lineups in hopes of improving players at each position and making them stronger at each line.
“We just always talk about versatility and players being able to see different positions and try some different things,” said Wieand. “At the end of the day, the game is soccer. Whether you’re a forward, whether you’re a defender, it’s still a ball at your foot. Make a run, pass, have a good first touch and those are the things we’re still trying to work on, some of those fundamental technical areas.”
As stated, it’s been tough. The Lady Tigers are 0-10 after Tuesday’s loss to Grovetown. What’s more, Wieand’s bunch has scored just six goals this season — all of them coming in two games. It’s a pretty drastic shift from last year’s squad that finished 9-9 overall and one game outside that coveted No. 4 spot in the Region 3-AAAAAA standings.
Eight seniors have graduated from that team, including college signees in goalie Daphne Ramirez Brenau), forward Sydney Ziglar (Truett McConnell) and fellow all-county performer Baylea Payne.
Nevertheless, nailing down the fundamentals is of the utmost importance for Wieand, and she hopes to see continual growth from all of her players. She’s already seen a few players start to get the hang of the game and gain a better understanding.
“We have Gwyneth Lee and she’s actually a softball player,” Wieand said. “She’s a very good softball player, and we kind of recruited her and she has been a key player. She’s strong and physical. Kira Williams, when she is out here and healthy, again, she is another physical aggressive player that has done a nice job.”
One player that has been absolutely key for the Lady Tigers is Eutsey. She was the Covington News girls player of the year last season after scoring 29 goals from her striker position, but with the team’s struggles this year she has spent more time as a defender.
Doing so has allowed the Eckerd signee to show just how versatile she can be with her play in the back as she acts as a last line of defense for the Lady Tigers. Although the Lady Tigers have had some tough results this season, her play has not gone unnoticed.
“She is a key player to our team and unfortunately I have moved her back to defense, but she is the glue that holds us together and keeps that defense rounded up,” said Wieand. “She’s very important to us on that back line and every now and then when we can try to push her forward and give her some offensive creativity, we’ll try to do that.”
A look at the remaining schedule shows that Alcovy could have a couple of winnable games left. After a Friday match with Class AAAAAA No. 7 Heritage, Alcovy will host Evans (3-7, 1-6) next Thursday and will face winless Newton on April 16 — a team that finds itself in a similar rebuilding process.
Wieand said a high work ethic is the main thing she hopes to see from her team the rest of the way, along with aggressive play and increased fluidity on offense. With her mixing up positions and allowing players to see time in a wide array of situations, she’s already starting to see some results.
“It is nice playing in some new positions because we have started seeing a couple girls get more confident in some positions out there.”