Alma soccer coach Cory Sturdivant will always wonder how many games the Lady Airedales would have won in 2020.

The same goes for senior scorer Alyssa Thomas. When COVID-19 kicked in, ultimately killing the season following a March 10 win over Vilonia, Thomas had 22 goals.

Q: How many career goals did Thomas end up with?

A: Alyssa ended up with 22 career goals for the Lady Airedales. She had eight in 2018, seven last season and in the seven games we were able to play this season she had already scored seven, so we were expecting a huge year from her as a senior. You could see a competitiveness in her this season to want to help her team succeed. I have no doubt that she would have (and has already) set the bar high for all of our forwards to strive for in the future.

Q: Where do you believe the girls team might have finished in 2020. We know it's a brutal conference.

A: Both coach (Dillon) Work, myself, and the girls expected to make the state this year and I fully believe that we would have. A lot of these girls started our summer skills from the first part of June last year and continued to work hard nearly every day up until the point that the season was suspended. The 5A West is probably the toughest conference in the state, but our girls set it as their No. 1 goal this season to get into the tournament. You could tell a huge difference this year in our chemistry, our passing ability, and the ability to score and defend.

Q: Athletes are important. But chemistry seems to be pretty big, too. Do you agree?

A: This group of girls has meshed so well and care about each and every member of the team. This is probably the best group of girls that I’ve been able to be a part of. Coming off the huge 4-0 win for us over Vilonia in the conference opener the girls knew that the ability to go to state was fully in their control. They were excited and confident to face our tough conference opponents and get their chance.

Q: Have you kept in touch with your players through all the drama that followed?

A: Yes. From messaging, email, and meeting through video on Google Meets, we are all keeping in touch with each other on a daily and weekly basis. It’s great for both of us coaches to see the kids, but still doesn’t replace that time on the field. It’s definitely been an adjustment. We are sending home workouts, drills to work on their footwork and skills, and even a juggling competition to help keep them motivated despite the season being canceled.

Q: Student athletes tend to persevere better than adults. I’m guessing they’re going to be OK.

A: They all have a great attitude despite the circumstances, and we get daily updates on things they are doing to improve their game. We try to utilize social media as much as possible to help overcome the fact that we all can’t be together on the field right now.

Q: What do you think coaches will earn from having a season (almost) completely wiped out?

A: I think the biggest part is encourage your players on a daily basis and tell them that you value them, trust them, and just care about each and every one of them as a player and a person, because you never know when the last time you will get to see them practice or play.

Q: How will coaches adapt moving forward?

A: I think coaches are having to adapt and find ways to continue to motivate their kids to improve their individual game during this downtime. One of the social media accounts we follow calls this a “separation season” and I couldn’t agree more. Just because the season is officially over doesn’t mean that we are finished. Players still have an opportunity to improve on their game in order to prepare for next season.

Q: I imagine coaches will have long-term backup plans in place moving forward.

A: I think it’ll definitely make an impact on how coaches plan for everything both in the team and individual context, and make you think twice about taking anytime with your kids (practice or otherwise) for granted.

Q: I know it has to be really rough on the seniors to have missed out?

A: It has been devastating, especially for our seniors. I’m devastated as a coach for these kids. They all have dealt with it in an incredibly strong way though. Many of our seniors helped start the Alma soccer program as sophomores, so as sophomores they had already missed out on a season as freshman. With their senior season canceled after just a few games, it has been something that has been hard to take.

Q: How will seniors who missed their seasons, in other sports, too, such as track, softball and baseball, be remembered?

A: Each one of these seniors is incredibly resilient and we know they will grow as people due to this adversity. Their strength has been a great example to our underclassman. They have set the foundation and the expectation for all that come after them in this program. While they may not have had a complete season, they have left a complete legacy these three years for all Alma soccer players in the future to see.