Sydney Ziglar, Baylea Payne, Ryleigh Langford and Daphne Ramirez make up the four freshmen that helped propel Alcovy’s girls soccer team to a No. 2 seed and a trip to the playoffs.
Get all four freshmen in a room and you’ll likely be drawn to their distinct individual magnetic personalities. Although each of the four are their own person, as a group they make up the backbone of Alcovy’s future in girls soccer.
“This has got to be the most talented and dynamic group of freshmen I have ever been around. Even within those freshmen, these four standout,” Anna Hebert, Lady Tigers’ head coach, said.
Ziglar is quiet and reserved, she doesn’t talk to people much. She does all of her talking through her incredible play on the field where she finished with 27 goals and 12 assists this season setting a new school record for goals for both boys and girls.
Payne is more of a vocal leader, but she’s just as adept at leading with her play on the field finishing with 21 goals and 11 assists.
Ramirez is an incredible keeper. She set a record herself with the most shutouts in a season with seven. She anchors the defense and directs the players as a defensive leader.
Langford didn’t set any records like her three peers, but she’s just as crucial to Alcovy’s defense. As a stopper, she had eight saves and even contributed on offense with two assists and one goal. She’s also one of the most dependable players on the team as Hebert says she started all 16 games and never subbed her until the last 50 seconds of the Lady Tigers playoff game.
Payne and Ziglar combine to make one heck of a scoring tandem in the front, but in the back Ramirez and Langford hold down the fort for Alcovy’s defense. Together they’re a formidable foursome and a force to be reckoned with.
Outside the confines of the pitch, they’re just four fun-loving girls navigating their way through high school. Payne, Ziglar and Ramirez have known each other since their days in elementary school. Although the two make a lethal combination the field, Payne says she and Ziglar never talked until this year despite having been at the same schools since kindergarten.
“I didn’t talk to her either,” Ziglar said laughing.
Payne and Ramirez have played together since they were nine years old, when they lived in the same neighborhood. Ramirez and Langford have played club soccer together and with it built a great camaraderie.
Payne and Ziglar are polar opposites. Payne is talkative, outgoing and vibrant. Ziglar is the exact opposite. She doesn’t talk to people much, she wears a smile on her face, but keeps to herself.
Paynes says Ziglar has come out of her shell more, or as she calls it blossomed into a beautiful butterfly from her cocoon. There probably isn’t a greater supporter of Ziglar than Payne, but Payne is also Ziglar’ greatest rival.
“I want to beat Sydney. That’s probably my No. 1 priority. Because I don’t like to lose,” she laughed.
Ziglar and Payne both broke the previous record of 16 goals for girl’s soccer and Payne really wanted to beat out her teammate. They had a friendly competition going this past season to see which of them would score the most goals.
“I don’t know if it was that friendly. I got mad sometimes,” Payne said laughing. Payne jokes that she got mad when she couldn’t play after she got hurt (she missed two games) and Syd would get goals.
When asked if she would let Payne beat her record next year, Sydney quickly responded with a stern “no” and a smile.
While Baylea and Sydney fight for goals, Ramirez and Langford work together to keep the opposition from scoring.
“I have pretty good chemistry with Daphne I’d say. Working in the back I’m pretty used to working with her because I work with her sometimes on club team. So we work pretty good together so that’s how I kind of control the defense with Daphne. She helps me,” Langford said.
Hebert says the two form a pretty good duo. Hebert can rely on Langford when Ramirez sits.
“One of the things that makes Ryleigh very valuable on defense is that when Daphne comes out, Ryleigh knows where to be. There were several times she was on the goalline and cleared shots that would have gone in otherwise,” Hebert said.
“I’ve never had a field player have that ability before. She’s very talented,” Hebert added.
Ramirez is terrific in-goal. She knows just when to come out and when to stay back.
“It’s kind of all come just from a lot of experience with it,” Ramirez said. “I kind of watch early on in the game just to know what the forwards look like and what the players look like before they’re coming into the box. I trust my backs a lot so I know they’ll usually get to it, but if they don’t I can kind of gauge when they’re gonna come in or not.”
Hebert agrees that Ramirez’s awareness makes her special.
“That’s something that sets Daphne apart from a lot of female goalkeepers in that she’s not timid. She understands that you are either going out and you’re coming away with the ball or the girl or you’re not coming out. She never halfway commits. It’s great,” Hebert said.
“She’s very good at directing the defense and motivating the entire team. She’s a real leader,” Hebert added.
All four freshmen have blossomed into leaders on a team that still has a notable number of upperclassmen. They all work together and interact with each other in some shape or fashion. Payne is arguably the most vocal leader, which can be hard for most underclassmen but not for her.
“I’ve always done that. I’ve never cared how old they were or how much bigger they were compared to me,” Payne said. “I never try to be mean about it, but I’m always loud and I’m very assertive. They don’t like the way I come across sometimes, but I even apologize sometimes to them after the game saying, ‘I’m sorry if I came across...’ but I wanna win and whatever I can do for the team to win I’ll do. So if that means telling you, ‘Hey nice try, but you could’ve got there,’ or something then that’s just what I gotta do.”
During games, although she doesn’t mean to sometimes Payne can comes across as mean. And Langford hears it a lot.
“I get frustrated sometimes with Baylea,” Langford laughed. “But I love her!”
Payne has an intense desire to win and its a quality you want in any leader. Her peers don’t resent her for it because it makes them better.
Ziglar has the same kind of heart on the pitch. She’s small, but she’s fast and agile. Her size doesn’t stop her from attacking any and everyone that gets in her way.
“I never give up,” Ziglar said. She’s small, but she’s all heart.
The fantastic four are young talents, but they all have areas where they’d like to improve. Ziglar says she’s like to score 30-plus goals next season to which Baylea responds that she wants to score 40 after admitting she wants to be better than her teammate and her cousin Sarah Gattis, who went to Eastside before graduating two years ago and had the most goals in the county according to Payne.
Ramirez says that she wants to increase her shutouts record, but she also cares more about getting quality saves that result in her catching the ball more and not giving up so many corners. Langford says she wants to be more versatile and faster. She says that she also wants to get better with her tackles and not stab the ball as much.
“We are only freshmen so it could only go up from here and that’s what I’m excited about,” Payne said.
Hebert says that her favorite trait about her four freshmen is that they’re all unselfish. As competitive as Payne and Ziglar are with each other, they get a lot of their assists by passing to one another.
“I’ve never seen ninth graders take leadership like this group of ninth graders,” Hebert said.
Ramirez says that despite all of their differences the one thing that ties them together is their passion for soccer.
Ramirez said, “I think it’s just that we have the same love for this one sport. I think that’s just kind of the thing that brings us together.”