Alabama has long been known as a football school. Well, this autumn it really changed Football school. Alabama Crimson Tide Soccer is one of the best teams in the country.
What Americans call soccer, the rest of the world calls soccer, and the global sport has taken on a bold crimson and white hue this fall. At the college level here in the US anyway. In a time of year when the pigskin rules the roost in these parts, Alabama has accomplished what few thought possible, turning the football into not just a thing of beauty, but a newfound source of pride and excitement among Scenario A fans.
Oh, it’s not like Alabama hasn’t fielded a women’s soccer team before. It has. Every year since 1986. But it’s never had a season like this this one. Nowhere close. This one was special. This one broke the ceiling. This one was historic. This will never be forgotten. This one shouted thunderously to the world, Hey, we’re Alabama and we can play the world game with the best in the world. Or at least the best of the NCAA.
The still-unfolding story got off to a pleasant enough start back in mid-August. Wins over Vanderbilt, Florida Atlantic and Southern Miss. Road loss in Miami. Nice little start. Play a golf ball. But hey, Nick Saban’s bunch is in the middle of fall camp. Who will start at receiver in 2022?
Then there were explosions that could be heard “throughout the women’s college soccer world.”
First, on Aug. 28, Alabama not only upset No. 18 Clemson in Tuscaloosa, but beat the favored Tigers 3-0. Three days later, the Tide produced an even louder earthquake, traveling to Provo, Utah, and beating No. 6 BYU. Yeah, that BYU. BYU, which was playing for the 2021 national championship less than a year ago, fell in overtime to perennial power Florida State in penalty kicks.
Has Alabama — sometimes a middling, lower-tier, completely off-the-grid, irrelevant football school — really ascended to the upper stratosphere of women’s college soccer? Exactly like this. Has eighth-year head coach Wes Hart really turned his unknown team, unranked and unheralded to open the season, into a national contender? If nothing else, people across the country now had a keen interest in football, which was played just down the street from Bryant-Denny Stadium.
The Tide settled for a 1-1 tie at Utah after a stunning win over the Cougars tempered expectations a bit, but two more wins — over Utah Valley and North Alabama — pushed the Tide’s record to 7-1-1 with No. 5 South Carolina is set to visit the Alabama football campus on September 15th. Could Alabama do it again? Take down another high ranking enemy? Or was it just short-lived Labor Day weekend magic in early September?
The answer was emphatic. Alabama 2. South Carolina zilch. If it wasn’t clear after the wins over Clemson and BYU, it was certainly clear after the win over the Gamecocks that this 2022 Alabama football team is for real. And don’t go away. The wins kept coming. Home. Towards. Here. PUSH. Wherever they appeared. Down went Chattanooga. And Tennessee. And Texas A&M. And Georgia.
Another ranked opponent in the form of No. 20 Ole Miss came to Tuscaloosa on Oct. 6. Not even the Rebels could stop this crimson and white freight train in motion. Another trip? More of the same. Alabama 5. LSU nothing. Would No. 7 Arkansas be Alabama’s bugaboo and snap the winning streak? No way. Alabama 2. Arkansas 1. The Crimson Tide went on the road last Thursday to wrap up the SEC West with a 4-1 win over Mississippi State before clinching its first-ever SEC regular season championship with a 2-0 home victory over Florida on Sunday.
With the calendar now creeping into November, Alabama’s record now stands at a sparkling 16-1-1 with one regular season game remaining — tonight at Auburn — before the SEC Tournament begins next week in Pensacola, Florida. A winning streak? Now it’s 12. And counting.
Oh, and about that unranked status at the start of the season. Well, Alabama actually has the number one ranked team in the nation as the leaves turn various shades of crimson, gold and orange and gently flutter to the ground. This just isn’t the Alabama team everyone expected in August. These players do not wear shoulder pads. Wears shin guards. And since September 6, they know only one thing. Victorious.
When they take the field, the women of Alabama hit it hard in cleats. They come to defeat. They come to dominate. They may fall behind early — like recently against Ole Miss and Arkansas — but they keep coming. They keep fighting. They keep fighting. They will find a way to finish on top.
Their roughness is matched only by the mesmerizing, eye-pleasing flair they display in subduing their enemies. Art on blades of grass. Poetry in motion. Watching Alabama football in 2022 is like a dance, a performance, a concert by a large symphony orchestra—an eclectic collection of perfectly matched pieces that all blend together to create the sweetest sights and sounds. What they can do with the ball at their feet – nimble flicks, quick stops, nimble turns, bending passes, spot headers, shots on goal that seem to have an eye for the net. they seem almost unreal. Did she really just do it with the ball? How is this even humanly possible?
A sport that no one associated with Alabama before this season is now a sport that Alabama has done better than any other school in the country over the past two months. As a team. Even individually. Bama midfielder Felicia Knox currently leads the nation in assists with 15. Teammate Riley Mattingly Parker is tied for second in the nation in game-winning goals with five and just this week was named SEC Offensive Player of the Week for the third time this season. And then there’s Bama goalie McKinley Crone, who earned SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors for the second week in a row. Kat Rogers has been appointed to the community service team.
They win games. They are on the front lines. They capture championships. They keep statistics. They collect individual awards. This 2022 Alabama football team does it all.
Yep, Alabama Crimson Tide fans can rightfully hold that single index finger. The #1 women’s soccer team in the nation calls Tuscaloosa home. It wasn’t bad when four SEC teams were ranked in the Top 25 at the start of the season and a fifth received votes, and none of those teams were the ones hoisting the SEC championship trophy Sunday night at Alabama Football Stadium.
Alabama football? The ho-hum program, the shrug, the way off on the fringes no more.
Alabama Crimson Tide SEC Soccer Champions
Anyone who doubts that Alabama is now a football school wasn’t at Alabama Football Stadium late Sunday night when Crimson Tide players, proudly donning their SEC championship caps and T-shirts, jumped and danced and hugged and cried and cheered and they posed. photo, celebrating the school’s first-ever conference title in front of an 1882 crowd that had never seen Alabama’s football stadium before, beaming with pride, record-setting records, and the Alabama marching band contingent as well.
Hart got a well-deserved Gatorade bath. Seniors were honored. Exciting videos were playing on the big screen. In one fairy tale season, the night felt like the perfect ending.
Only… it wasn’t.
A famous Alabama football coach once said: This is not the end. This is the beginning.
That’s what it looks like in Alabama women’s soccer right now. After tonight’s trip to the Plains, Alabama’s 2022 start moves into the postseason next week. Where this cinema-worthy drama will eventually end and with what additional sparkling moments, dazzling goals, brilliant through passes, thrilling slides, heart-rending endings is anyone’s guess.
But the fact is, however this memorable run ends in 2022 for this Alabama football team, it is now clear that the great story of Alabama Crimson Tide Soccer is just beginning. It feels like the Crimson Tide is here to stay in the sport. For years to come. And this 2022 team will go down in history as the team that started it all.
Yeah, Alabama is still a football school. But global Football? Well, everyone knows by now that Alabama can play a little too.