In collegiate athletics, recruiting can be everything. When Alabama coach Wes Hart came to Tuscaloosa in 2015, he knew he was going to have to bring in young players to build for the future.
Alabama starts the 2016 season with eight freshmen and one transfer. Freshman Nealy Martin said it’s all about just going out and playing without getting affected by the moment of playing in your first games.
“I was a little nervous,” Martin said. “Emma [Welch] came up to me and said ‘Nealy don’t get all nervous on me,’ but of course as a freshman I am going to. Something about putting on the jersey that has an Alabama ‘A’ on it and the SEC logo makes you nervous, but you cannot get caught up in that.”
Two games into the season, many of these new players have seen a lot of action. Freshman Logue Shamburger and Martin have already been able to make an immediate impact on the team. Shamburger netted her first goal of the season against Murray State, and Martin has been a contributor in the midfield and on defense.
Martin and Shamburger each saw their names called when past players went down with injuries. Hart said the two have stepped up to the plate when given more minutes.
“To my surprise and delight, they have responded and shown that they deserve the minutes,” Hart said. “I am very happy with what they have given us, and I believe they are going to continue to give us valuable minutes and be impact players for us.”
In addition to those two, a pair of freshmen goalkeepers, Alex Plavin and Emilie Saksvig, back up junior Kat Stratton. The two have already started to learn from the starter, Hart said. Joining them in the freshman class are Chloe Maize, who is currently out with an ACL tear, Keely Cartrett, Alexandra Dunn and Taylor Hubbard.
Sophomore Abbie Boswell, who transferred from Ball State, is another newcomer that occupies a crucial role on Hart’s offense filling the attacking midfield role. Boswell stood out for Cardinals in 2015, becoming the first player from the University to win conference freshman of the year.
Having previously coached Boswell before as a youth player, Hart knew landing Boswell was going to be big for the Crimson Tide.
“She’s exceeded my high expectations that I had from her,” Hart said. “For me she’s just someone who is a winner. She is someone that wants the ball. She wants to make something happen. She is not looking to pass the responsibility; she isn’t afraid to make mistakes. She has the right mentality and mindset.”
Even though some of these players just started playing for Alabama, Boswell and her new teammates have seen the older players welcome them into the program. Boswell said many of the senior leaders will invite the younger players over for dinner to learn more about their teammates and to build friendships.
“The team loves each other and I know they’re going to be there for me,” Boswell said. “I’ll have silly questions and they will still help me. They are great and help me and the freshmen. It has taken some getting used to, considering Alabama is a huge campus compared to Ball State, but my teammates have been awesome.”
The talented class of newcomers will continue to have an impact on Alabama as the season progresses. With the gelling of the new players and the veterans, Hart is hoping this team can improve from last season.
“This year’s class, as well as future classes, need to come in here and be eager to make a difference,” he said. “At the same time, they are patient enough to know that it may not be on day one. That their hard work that they are putting in may not pay off until game five, game ten or even year two or three.”
Source:: The Crimson White Sports