Hannah Saad | @hannah_saad21
Alabama women’s soccer and cross country teams will end the 191-day drought without UA athletics on Saturday as soccer kicks off its season at home against the Tennessee Volunteers. The season opener will look to be closely contested, as the past three games against Tennessee since 2018 have been decided by a single goal.
Head coach Wes Hart enters his sixth season as the vocal leader and will look to build off of the previous success he has had in Tuscaloosa. Hart has collected a 4-2 record against Tennessee, including an exhibition and spring season game, and hasn’t lost to the Volunteers since the 2017 season.
“Tennessee is a tough team on paper,” Hart said in a press conference September 17. “If we can have a good start and come out flying like I hope… it will be a fun day for us.”
Despite Hart’s success against Tennessee, the victory still comes down to the players executing the game plan. Luckily for Alabama, four of the five players who scored a goal against Tennessee last year are still on the roster.
Aside from Alabama’s success against Tennessee since Hart was hired, the team has yet to collect a record above .500 in conference play. However, with the experience of this roster and multiple impact players, Hart could accomplish another “first” as head coach.
“We are returning a lot of experienced personnel,” senior Brynn Martin said at the press conference. “If we just play like we did last year with the new incoming freshmen they’ll.. give us an even better boost.”
Here are the key players for the match against Tennessee and the rest of the season:
Senior Casey Wertz looks to be the center of the Alabama attack as she led the team with six goals and seven assists last year. Wertz was also named to the SEC All-Conference Second Team in 2019.
Junior Riley Mattingly was just behind Wertz in goals last season with five. Mattingly appeared in all 20 games last season and started 17 of them.
Sophomore Reya Reyes will be the glue on the field for Alabama, as she’s strong on the defensive side and has the ability to score, making three goals last season. Reyes was named to the SEC All-Conference First Team, the only player on the team last year to receive that accolade, as well as the conference’s All-Freshman Team and the United Soccer Coaches All-Southeast Region team. Reyes also played the fourth-most minutes on the team last year, with 1556 total.
Sophomore Bella Scaturro started 18 of the 20 games last season & played the third-most minutes on the team last year (1720) as just a freshman.
Senior Brynn Martin proved to be a defensive staple last season as she was one of two players who had started all 20 games of the 2019 fall and 2020 spring seasons. Martin returns to the lineup as one of the most experienced players on the roster after playing 1793 minutes last season, which is the most by any returner. Her defensive efforts were noticed as she was named to the SEC All-Conference Second Team in 2019.
Freshman Tanna Sanchez-Carreto looks to make an immediate impact, despite being a freshman. Sanchez-Carreto was a member of the U20/U17 Mexican National Team along with teammate Reyes. When asked about Sanchez-Carreto’s recruitment during the signing period last year, coach Hart said that he believes her international experience will have prepared her to be successful at the collegiate level according to rolltide.com.
Wertz, Mattingly, Reyes and Martin were all named to the SEC Preseason watchlist Thursday morning.
“I gotta believe they are gonna be hungry to come out,” Hart said. “I dont think it’s going to be hard to get motivated for this game.”
Kickoff between Alabama and Tennessee is set for 1 p.m. CT at the Alabama Soccer Complex and will be on the SEC Network.
Season Predictions (6-2):
Tennessee – Win
Mississippi State – Win
Florida – Win
Arkansas – Loss
Ole Miss – Win
LSU – Win
Texas A&M – Loss
Auburn – Win