Even in a team sport, sometimes the best athletes have a little bit of an innate selfish gene in them.
It’s not enough to make them cancerous to their team, but it is enough to cause them to take their performance personally.
Perhaps that explains what’s made Newton’s first-year soccer player Lauren Williams so successful so fast.
Williams, a three-year starter on the Newton volleyball team, has become a shooting star as the Lady Rams’ soccer goalkeeper. And she says it’s because in soccer, she’s found a place to call her own — literally.
“I like the aggressiveness of the sport,” Williams said. “I also like the hands-on aspect of being a goalie. When I’m in that goal, it’s my ball and my area, and I get to control that. I’m gonna own it. I like that that area, it’s all mine.”
And that’s exactly how Williams has played, especially through the first few games of the season for a young, rebuilding Lady Rams squad that lacks some scoring punch and experience.
And Newton girls soccer coach David Alexander doesn’t hesitate to give his synopsis on what has kept Newton in striking distance in several of its games.
“Lauren is a pure athlete,” Alexander said. “She’s a senior, and she’s got the best work ethic of anyone out here. Right now, she’s the difference in keeping us in every ball game we’ve been in.”
Williams had five first-half saves in a match against Eastside this past Tuesday. It was a 3-0 loss, but even Eastside coach Joel Singleton acknowledged that Williams had a lot to do with making it a tighter game than many expected.
“It was a lot closer than I wanted it to be,” Singleton said. “We had a lot of chances in that game. Their goalkeeper played a great game against us.”
Hearing such accolades from people who have been in the sport much longer than she has has only buoyed Williams’ confidence and confirmed for her that she’s in the right place.
“When coaches tell me things like that, I feel like I’m doing what I need to do,” Williams said. “That pushes me to where I wanna go.”
Williams stepped out onto the soccer field on sort of a whim this season. Her previous soccer experience includes having “touched a soccer ball before” and playing a little kickball when she was younger.
One of her good friends, Ashley Weesner — a Newton senior who’s going to play softball at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College (ABAC) in Tifton next year — encouraged her to come out and play the sport with her this season. Now, says Williams, she’s may be more into it than Weesner.
“Before now, I’d never stepped onto a field and put myself in this position to play the game competitively,” she said. I’m glad I did. I fell in love with soccer, and now my goals are college soccer. I think I like it more than volleyball at this point. There’s so much more land for myself out here on this field, and I like it.”
Williams said her first choice for school is to go to ABAC with Weesner. If that doesn’t work out, she likes the idea of attending Georgia State. But wherever she goes, she wants to find a way to stay on the soccer field — something Alexander thinks can happen.
“It’s to the point now where we’re going to try and help her find a school that will give her some money to play,” Alexander said. “She’s definitely taken to the game quickly.”
So much so that Alexander made Williams a captain in her first year — something that Williams said she could tell kind of rubbed a few girls the wrong way.
“In the beginning of the year, definitely I could tell some people had hard feelings toward it,” she said. “They didn’t really respect me as a captain or as a new player, but even now in our fourth or fifth game, I notice they listen to me more. I may not have all the experience, but I’ve watched enough video and seen enough to know what’s supposed to happen. So I just say what needs to get done out there.”
Williams says the team’s desire and want-to is also contagious. It’s much more than what she expected, and it’s not only added more fuel to her competitive fire, but made her believe that she can help take this team to some greater heights.
“I feel like these girls want it a little more this year, based on what I’ve heard from prior years,” she said. “And as a captain this first year, it puts a lot of pressure on me to step up. But I wanted to do it. I wanted to step up and try to do whatever I can to help make this team better.”