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Submitted / The Herald

Editor’s Note: It was just brought to The Herald’s attention David Lovering, who was named 2019 All-County Girls Soccer Coach of the Year, has a domestic violence harassment charge against him. The Herald is actively looking into the case.

After winning a total of six games in three seasons, Holtville needed to make a change at the helm of its girls soccer program. Despite having no soccer background, coach David Lovering took over the team and pushed the Bulldogs to their largest win total since the team got reinstated in 2009. He is the Elmore County Girls Soccer Coach of the Year.

Lovering, who has coached football, baseball and wrestling across the state, stepped in late in the offseason last year and immediately began seeking a culture change to the girls soccer program. The Bulldogs began to raise the intensity in their offseason workouts and Lovering said he saw it pay off quickly.

“I thought we had the potential to be pretty good early on in the season,” Lovering said. “We had to work really hard to get to the level of effort I wanted to see. Once we raised expectations there and they bought in, we knew we could have a good year.”

While Lovering took on the head coaching duties and workout training, he reached out to some parents to volunteer with coaching the game. He found Fernando Segarra, a father of a player, who helped take off some of the pressure of strategy and in-game tactics.

“He has a huge soccer background so I relied on him a lot for that stuff,” Lovering said. “They relied on me for the conditioning and workouts but I’d lean on him a lot on the soccer field. It’s like having an offensive coordinator in football. It really worked out for us.”

Holtville started the 2019 season in familiar fashion, losing its opener 3-1 to Booker T. Washington at the Capital of Dreams tournament. However, the Bulldogs responded with a win and a draw to finish out the event, giving the players a big confidence boost to open the season.

“We felt really good after that opening tournament,” Lovering said. “The girls understood that we set a new precedence for them and they saw that practicing hard will really pay off.”

The Bulldogs rode that wave of momentum through the next month and improved their record to 4-2-1 with a 2-0 victory over section rival Elmore County. The win marked the first time this century Holtville reached four wins in a season. 

The team began to challenge for a section title but the Bulldogs could not get over that hump, losing two matches in extra time and one on penalty kicks. Holtville still clinched a playoff berth for the second consecutive season with an 8-0 win at Valley in the section finale.

The Bulldogs had the worst first-round matchup possible in Class 4A-5A and were forced to travel to Montgomery Academy, the eventual state champions. Holtville lost the match 14-0 but Lovering said there was a lot of good things that came from the defeat.

“We could show them how hard these players worked and how well they played,” Lovering said of Montgomery Academy. “We want to be closer to that than to what Holtville has been in the past and I think they can see that. Sometimes you can take more positives from a loss than a win.”

Lovering has already seen a change in the atmosphere around the program since the season ended. The Bulldogs have already held tryouts for next season and the coaches were pleased with what they have seen during the summer workouts.

“I think there’s a lot more excitement around the girls,” Lovering said. “The ones who have been here for a year have already bought in and now we have some new girls who are coming out ready to play. They’re interested in getting better and they’re willing to put in the work.”

The Bulldogs hope to continue to build on one of the program’s most successful seasons and they have the numbers returning to make it happen. Lovering said he just wants to see the hard work continue and he knows it will pay off in the end. 

“As the head coach, I want to put in all of my effort and I want to see them do the same thing,” Lovering said. “I think it’s going to continue to grow and get better.”

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.