By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (May 26, 2017) — Savannah Alford graduated Friday night, but first the state tournament MVP for 4A girls soccer champion Stephenville raked in one final honor, perhaps the biggest individual award of them all.
Alford walked the stage at Memorial Stadium as the best prep senior girls soccer player in the entire state of Texas in 2017, according to the Texas Girls Coaches Association.
The TGCA named Alford 4A-5A-6A Player of the Year after coaches voted on seniors nominated for the award. They also named Stewart Brown 4A-5A-6A Coach of the Year after he led Highland Park to a 5A state championship and undefeated season.
Stephenville head coach Casey Weil couldn’t imagine Alford ending high school on a better note.
“What a day for her, she’s getting ready to graduate and now she knows she’ll walk the stage as the most highly-honored girls soccer player in the state,” said Weil Friday afternoon. “It’s a great award for her to go out on, it’s one she absolutely deserves and I couldn’t be more proud for her and our program.
“I think it shows the type of athletes we have grown to turn out in our girls soccer program; they’re some of the best in the state,” added the 10th year leader of the Honeybees and Texas Association of Soccer Coaches 2017 4A Coach of the Year. “What really set Savannah apart is the experience she had by the end of her high school career and the leadership she brought to our team, which was a big reason we were able to finally break through and get to the state tournament and then win it.”
As a sweeper, Alford was the District 4-4A Defensive MVP and a TASCO first-team all-state defender. She keyed a Honeybee defense that allowed nine goals all season including just two in seven playoff wins. Alford helped goalkeepers Madi Wyly and Alyssa Northcutt combine for 21 clean sheets.
But Alford never was on just sit back and play defense.
“Savannah is so successful as a sweeper, but I think what makes her even more exciting to watch is that she absolutely has the ability to sneak up there and get in on the offense,” Weil said. “She is capable of scoring goals and had some big ones for us at some big times when we really needed our senior leader to step up and deliver.”
Like in the final of the state tournament, for example, when Alford headed in a corner kick for the initial goal in what eventually was a 2-1 Honeybee win of their first state championship in the sport.
“Savannah worked really hard, not just on her game, but on her leadership. She wasn’t always one of those big leader types,” Weil said. “She was always an outstanding player, but the leadership came later because it was something she developed with time and experience.”
The 2017 Honeybees had to have a special leader with nine freshmen on the original roster to begin the season and eight of them starting in the championship game. Last fall, Alford admitted she wasn’t sure what lied ahead in her senior season after the Bees graduated 16 seniors the year before and with so many young faces preparing to take on key roles.
But from that group of freshmen, forward Gracie Bales and defender Beatris Chavarria were named all-state by TASCO, and Ciara Johnston was all-region. A number of the freshmen earned all-district honors, and will all be back three more years.
But they won’t have Alford, who will be in Wichita Falls competing for Midwestern State University. Alford and Kalee Wright, another senior defender for Stephenville, signed their letters of intent the same day early in the season.
“You don’t ever want to say someone is irreplaceable, and we have great young players who will step up and fill in the best they can,” said Weil, who had Alford on the Region I all-star team he coached in a 8-1 victory over Region IV in the TASCO Senior All-Star Showcase last Saturday in Belton. “But let’s be honest, it isn’t easy to replace a Savannah Alford. Girls like that don’t just come along every year.”
Alford is the first Stephenville athlete outside of football to be named a conference or statewide player of the year. The soccer title is the third in girls team sports for Stephenville, which has eight athletic team titles in all and is 8-0 in state championship games.
Stephenville girls teams won state titles in girls basketball in 1968 and volleyball in 2003 before the soccer championship on April 12 in Georgetown. The high school has also celebrated five football championships in 1993, 1994, 1998, 1999 and 2012.