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The Tuscaloosa News

'It made us feel really included': Central girls soccer program returns after nearly two decades

By Jerell Rushin, The Tuscaloosa News,

2023-03-14
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Central High School has a girls soccer team this spring after nearly 20 dormant years.

Daniel Morton is in his third season leading the Falcons' program, which had been coed since Central was split into three schools with the additions of Northridge and Paul Bryant in 2003.

After last season, Morton's No. 1 objective was securing the girls their own team. Despite not knowing if it would get enough turnout, Central kept faith and made the girls soccer schedule. Through yearlong recruiting by Morton, his assistant coaches and the returning girls, they learned in the winter their hard work paid off.

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They have 14 players, which is just enough to field a full team with a couple of reserves. The days of girls receiving limited playing time alongside boys are over, for now.

"It made us feel really included because with boys we don’t really play the same amount of time," forward Kayori Ryan said. "With girls we get to show ourselves off a little bit more."

Only half of the team ever played a soccer game before this season, Morton said. Ryan, a star on the flag football team, and other multi-sport soccer players recruited teammates from their winter and fall sports to the team.

Wins may come slow to come, but the Falcons won't get shut out. Central defeated Holy Spirit 1-0 when Ryan scored an early second half goal on an assist from Lorenza Miguel, a player who Morton knew would do well on an all-girls team.

"We weren’t used to that type of running that we did," Miguel said. "We were pretty tired, but we didn’t give up."

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Playing alongside boys was a tough challenge, Ryan said, because they were preoccupied with getting off the ball before defenders arrived. With girls, she and her teammates are much more comfortable.

"Nobody expected us to win," Ryan added. "They all went in with a losing mindset. We all were like, ‘Well, we’re just going to have fun, go out there and do the best we can.’ And we ended up winning, so that was fun."

Since the win, several Central soccer alums have reached out to Morton, shown support and reminisced of the program before the school was split, when the boys team won the 1993 6A state championship.

Morton handles mostly on-field work and his assistants play a big role in all aspects of the varsity and JV programs, he said.

"They've said it's really cool that we're getting it back up," Morton said. "I'm doing the best I can, learning on the fly running multiple teams. It's been a growing experience for me. But I'm really proud of the girls and what we've been able to accomplish as a school with my coaches, my players."

Jerell Rushin is a recruiting reporter for the Tuscaloosa News and the USA TODAY Network. Reach him at jrushin@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter at @JerellRushin_.

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