Editor’s Note: This is part of a series highlighting the accomplishments of every area team’s senior class as their senior seasons were cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic. It will culminate in Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.’s Virtual Senior Night. For more information on that, visit www.tallasseetribune.com.
Nine seniors left the Tallassee soccer program after the 2019 season and the Tigers did not have the numbers to fill the. Coach Keiven Mixson took over the program which was filled with mostly younger players and just three upperclassmen, all of them seniors.
“I think they are a really smart group,” Mixson said. “They realized they were going to have to carry the team a lot more this year. They have been everything a coach could ask for. They were focused on working and getting better.”
Chandler Vance and Caleb Thornton saw their roles expanded as they took on a little more pressure during their final seasons. Mixson said the duo was prepared for it after several years of playing varsity.
“It’s a testament to their character and I was lucky to have guys like that,” Mixson said. “They were like coaches on the field. They knew all of the drills and all of the basic skills they needed. It helped tremendously to have those guys lead out there.”
Leslie Alvarez joined the team for her senior season and it gave the Tigers an extra mentor. Her playing time was more limited but she still brought plenty to the table to help her teammates.
“It’s always good to get somebody new,” Mixson said. “I’m sure she played growing up because she was still pretty skilled but I knew she hadn’t played in a while. She always brought a smile to the field. Her positive energy really carried us sometimes. It was nice to have a fresh face on the team.”
Vance was the leader of the offense even though goals became a rarity during his final season. The Tigers played only one man at the top of its formation while focusing on defense but Vance was still good enough to cause problems for opposing defenses.
Tallassee did not get a win in 2020 and even lost some matches by more than five goals. However, Mixson said Vance made sure the whole team was staying positive and fought until the final second every night out.
“We had a lot of great seniors in the program the last few years and he learned from them,” Mixson said. “Chandler is one of the hardest workers I have ever coached in any sport. He will do anything you ask him whether it’s in the weight room, conditioning, on the field and when you put that much work in, it’s going to show in your game. That’s what a captain and leader of the team should do.”
Thornton started on the wing for the Tigers but with the team often being on its back foot, he had to spend much of his time in his own third. While trusting Vance to make some noise going forward, Thornton often found himself dropping in front of his own goal to make some last-ditch efforts with the rest of the defense.
“He is very conscientious,” Mixson said. “He wants to do the right thing and he’s an extremely hard worker without ever complaining about it. We moved him around a lot and he can play everywhere. We wanted to move him up to give him a chance to score but he had to do a lot of defending for us and he did a great job.”