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The Crimson White Print Edition - September 7, 2023

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6A<br />

sports<br />

Alabama soccer seeks to continue undefeated record at home<br />

Abby McCreary<br />

Sports Editor<br />

On Sunday, the Alabama<br />

soccer team will<br />

face one of its greatest<br />

challenges of the season.<br />

<strong>The</strong> <strong>Crimson</strong> Tide kicks<br />

off against the North<br />

Carolina Tar Heels in the<br />

Alabama Soccer Stadium<br />

Sunday, Sept. 10, at 6 p.m.,<br />

beginning what might be<br />

Alabama’s first true test of<br />

the season. Although the<br />

teams have never played<br />

each other before, both<br />

ended their 2022 seasons<br />

far into the postseason,<br />

and both have started<br />

their <strong>2023</strong> seasons with<br />

the championship-caliber<br />

style.<br />

Head coach Wes Hart<br />

said the Alabama 2022<br />

team set the <strong>2023</strong> team up<br />

for success.<br />

“I’m going to miss these<br />

seniors. What they’ve<br />

meant to and done for this<br />

program is remarkable,”<br />

Hart said. “I truly can’t<br />

put it into words, but no<br />

doubt they can leave here<br />

knowing they left Bama<br />

soccer in a good place.”<br />

Last year, Alabama<br />

was one game away from<br />

playing North Carolina<br />

in the College Cup. <strong>The</strong><br />

<strong>Crimson</strong> Tide fell in the<br />

Final Four to the UCLA<br />

Bruins, and the Tar Heels<br />

saw a similar fate in the<br />

championship. Both teams<br />

had astounding 2022<br />

seasons, and this year,<br />

both teams are returning<br />

similar talent, energy<br />

and drive. At the end of<br />

August, Alabama trailed<br />

one behind North Carolina<br />

in the national rankings,<br />

falling at No. 5.<br />

All-American and SEC<br />

Midfielder of the Year<br />

Felicia Knox is entering<br />

her senior season with<br />

the Alabama soccer team.<br />

After making it to the<br />

Final Four last year, the<br />

team is back in action this<br />

fall and hungry for that<br />

national championship<br />

title as Knox begins her<br />

last season with the<br />

<strong>Crimson</strong> Tide.<br />

Although Knox is a<br />

soccer program veteran,<br />

there are many new faces<br />

on the team, leaving some<br />

fans to speculate if these<br />

new players can live up to<br />

recently graduated seniors<br />

and fifth-years. However,<br />

Knox seems confident in<br />

her new teammates and<br />

what they have to offer<br />

Alabama.<br />

“I would say the players<br />

that filled in the gaps<br />

of our core players are<br />

younger and aren’t as<br />

experienced, but I don’t<br />

necessarily think that’s a<br />

bad thing, because they’ve<br />

come in hungry and<br />

eager,” Knox said.<br />

<strong>The</strong> midfielder spoke<br />

highly of the new team<br />

dynamic. She feels as if<br />

she’s stepped into more of<br />

a leadership role now than<br />

in previous years because<br />

she’s had more seasons<br />

under her belt and can<br />

lead by example as an<br />

upperclassman.<br />

“Now that we don’t<br />

have that leadership<br />

from previous seniors<br />

and fifth-years, some of<br />

the juniors and some of<br />

the sophomores that are<br />

consistently playing have<br />

to lead by example,” Knox<br />

said. “It’s kind of exciting<br />

in a way, because we have<br />

Alabama soccer player Leah Kunde (#22) charges toward the ball in a match against Memphis on Aug. 27 at the Alabama Soccer Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala.<br />

CW / Riley Thompson<br />

Both teams also<br />

escaped August without<br />

dropping a game, although<br />

several ties spot their<br />

records. <strong>The</strong> <strong>Crimson</strong> Tide<br />

hasn’t lost in the Alabama<br />

Soccer Stadium since<br />

2021, and with this top-10<br />

matchup in Tuscaloosa,<br />

there are high hopes of<br />

coming out with a win.<br />

<strong>The</strong> <strong>Crimson</strong> Tide has a<br />

notable win against then-<br />

No. 17 Memphis to boost<br />

its record. Hart said the<br />

win was a big moment<br />

for the start of Alabama’s<br />

season.<br />

“I felt like we hadn’t<br />

really put a complete<br />

game together, and tonight<br />

was our closest thing to<br />

a complete game,” Hart<br />

said. “Certainly, there were<br />

some lulls throughout the<br />

to come together and<br />

figure things out.”<br />

<strong>The</strong> <strong>Crimson</strong> Tide faced<br />

a devastating loss last year<br />

against UCLA. Knox played<br />

81 minutes of the game<br />

and had four shots and<br />

two shutouts. Although<br />

she did not end her 2022<br />

season without a fight, she<br />

said UCLA is unlike any<br />

opponent the team has<br />

played before.<br />

“UCLA was a team we<br />

had never faced before,<br />

and we hadn’t really faced<br />

a team like them before.<br />

We had to adapt in that<br />

game, and you could tell<br />

we hadn’t been there<br />

before,” Knox said.<br />

Alabama quickly had to<br />

adjust to UCLA’s playing<br />

style during the Final<br />

Four matchup, but the<br />

team now knows how<br />

to approach the game, if<br />

and when they compete<br />

again. However, the<br />

team’s mentality is not<br />

focused on the national<br />

championship right now;<br />

rather, they’re taking it<br />

game, but that’s going to<br />

happen in a 90-minute<br />

game. I thought from the<br />

start of the game, we came<br />

with our energy, pressing,<br />

hunting and work rate,<br />

and really that sets the<br />

tone for our soccer.”<br />

With the tone set, the<br />

team then hosted the<br />

Miami Hurricanes, one of<br />

Alabama’s few losses last<br />

season. Although Miami<br />

was unranked and the<br />

contest took place before<br />

a home crowd, Alabama<br />

couldn’t secure the win,<br />

ending the match in<br />

a draw.<br />

<strong>The</strong> beginning of<br />

the season has shown<br />

promise, though, that last<br />

year’s success is not far<br />

in the rearview mirror.<br />

Although the <strong>Crimson</strong><br />

game by game.<br />

“If we just take every<br />

game as it comes and<br />

know what we have to do<br />

in order to win that game,<br />

I think that’s the biggest<br />

factor,” Knox said. “Before<br />

we know it, we’re going to<br />

be competing in the SEC<br />

championship, the Sweet<br />

16, the Elite Eight and so<br />

on.”<br />

Although it is not<br />

unlikely the <strong>Crimson</strong> Tide<br />

will make it far in the<br />

playoffs, and possibly add<br />

a new ring to its collection,<br />

Knox doesn’t want to leave<br />

her senior season known<br />

only as Midfielder of the<br />

Year, or the player who<br />

holds the UA career record<br />

in assists.<br />

“I put all of the<br />

accolades and all of<br />

that stuff aside, like, ‘Oh<br />

yeah, Felicia was an All-<br />

American.’ I would rather<br />

them say, ‘Yeah, she was<br />

the best teammate,’” Knox<br />

said. “In the grand scheme<br />

of things, I feel like that’s<br />

a lot better than just an<br />

Tide had to replace star<br />

goalkeeper McKinley<br />

Crone, both graduate<br />

student Dylan Pixton<br />

and freshman Coralie<br />

Lallier have defended the<br />

goal successfully. On the<br />

offense, both sophomore<br />

Gianna Paul and senior<br />

Felicia Knox are top<br />

scorers, returning with<br />

much of the same stardom<br />

they had last year.<br />

Offensively, Alabama<br />

started strong, averaging<br />

nearly 17 shots per game<br />

at the end of August.<br />

However, North Carolina<br />

has just over 25 and<br />

averages nearly one more<br />

goal per game. <strong>The</strong> Tar<br />

Heels return a lot of talent<br />

from last year, including<br />

senior Avery Patterson,<br />

and aren’t plagued by<br />

accolade.”<br />

Obviously, the Alabama<br />

soccer program is a very<br />

different team than when<br />

Knox first came on board,<br />

and for the better. It<br />

has gone from being an<br />

underdog organization<br />

on campus to one of the<br />

most talked-about teams<br />

of 2022. Knox said she has<br />

advice for younger players<br />

that she’s glad she took<br />

herself.<br />

“<strong>The</strong> advice I would<br />

give is don’t compare<br />

yourself to another person.<br />

Your journey is special in<br />

its own way. Your journey<br />

is going to be different,<br />

but it’s going to be your<br />

journey, it’s not anybody<br />

else’s,” Knox said. “In high<br />

school and before I came<br />

to Alabama, Alabama<br />

wasn’t the team that it is<br />

right now, and I had a lot<br />

of people ask me, ‘Why are<br />

you going there?’ Well, it’s<br />

my journey. I wanted to go<br />

to Alabama and play in the<br />

SEC and go to one of the<br />

best schools in the country<br />

injuries as they were<br />

during the College Cup.<br />

Overall, Sunday has the<br />

potential to be a seasondefining<br />

game.<br />

<strong>The</strong> game will also<br />

coincide with Bama Salute,<br />

one of three UA Athletics<br />

events this season that<br />

will honor active-duty<br />

military and veterans.<br />

Other events will be<br />

held later in the year at<br />

volleyball and football<br />

games.<br />

<strong>The</strong> Bama Salute<br />

matchup against North<br />

Carolina will begin at 6<br />

p.m. on Sunday and can be<br />

watched on ESPNU.<br />

Felicia Knox prepares for senior season with Alabama soccer<br />

Bella Martina<br />

Assistant Sports<br />

Editor<br />

and do all these things.<br />

That’s part of my journey.”<br />

<strong>The</strong> senior is grateful<br />

for her soccer career and<br />

has made sure to stay<br />

consistent in her mindset<br />

and the goals that she has<br />

set for herself along<br />

the way.<br />

“I feel like if you just<br />

focus on your own path<br />

and your own journey,<br />

then you’re going to find<br />

success at some point,<br />

rather than trying to<br />

focus on everything else<br />

that’s going on around<br />

you,” Knox said. “Focus<br />

on yourself so your<br />

teammates have the<br />

best you.”<br />

<strong>The</strong> soccer season has<br />

just begun, but Knox and<br />

the rest of the <strong>Crimson</strong><br />

Tide are gearing up for the<br />

long haul.<br />

Alabama soccer player<br />

Felicia Knox (#8) controls<br />

the ball in a game against<br />

Memphis on Aug. 27 at the<br />

Alabama Soccer Stadium in<br />

Tuscaloosa, Ala.<br />

CW / Riley Thompson

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