First-year soccer player Sydney Hatley has thrived in net, been great example for Alma girls

George "Clay" Mitchell
Press Argus-Courier

Alma girls soccer coach Cory Sturdivant knew he needed some help.

The Lady Airedales lost all four of their goalkeepers to graduation. With the COVID-19 pandemic ending the season early and wrecking the offseason during the summer, there wasn't much opportunity to prepare for a new crew.

The team received help this season from a senior who had never played soccer before. Sydney Hatley, a 5-foot-10 volleyball and basketball player.

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"The coach thought I would make an OK goalie because of my volleyball experience, and I wasn't too sure about that," Hatley said. "One day after basketball practice, I decided to give it a try.

"I still don't know a lot about the rules or the names of the positions in soccer, but I guess it's just instincts for me. There are a lot of times I don't know what's going on."

The coach and other players would send Hatley videos on drills to prepare for her role. She came out to as many practices as she could. Basketball teams didn't have any holiday tournaments during Thanksgiving or around Christmas due to COVID-19 restrictions, so Hatley got in additional work.

"She's probably the best goalkeeper we ever had here," Sturdivant said. "She brings a lot from playing volleyball and basketball with her reaction, anticipation and competitiveness. I wished we had her for all four years. She'll be hard to replace."

Sturdivant notes that Hatley's work ethic has already impacted the younger players.

"She comes out here every day and knows what she has to work on, and she gets after it," Sturdivant said. "She brings a lot of energy and work ethic to whatever she does. I don't know if there's anyone who works harder than her out here on the field, and it sets an excellent example for the younger girls. We're still pretty young, and we've gotten some good senior leadership out of her."

Hatley acknowledged her return to basketball after a two-year absence also helped her prepare for soccer.

"I knew what I had to do to get back for basketball, so I worked harder than everyone else. The same was with soccer," Hatley said. "I was new to the sport, along with some of the freshmen. So we all had to work. I just felt I had to work harder, and I think they picked that up as well."

While the Lady Airedales haven't won a game this season, it doesn't change the mood or lessen Hatley's experience with the team.

"It's really fun. All the girls and the atmosphere have been great," Hatley said. "I never played an outdoor sport before, so this was new. I wished I had tried it sooner, but I'm glad I got a year in."