Shootout victory caps comeback win vs. rivals

Caleb Turrentine / The Observer

Holtville’s Blakley White (22) stretches out to win the ball against two Elmore County defenders during Thursday’s game in Eclectic.

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.thewetumpkaherald.com.

Seniors do not always need the most talent in the world to become leaders of their own team. While the seniors on the Holtville girls soccer team put together some strong performances on the pitch, they will be remembered more for their attitudes and work ethics to help the team move forward as a whole.

“They saw what we wanted to do and they bought into that,” Holtville coach David Lovering said. “They were willing to do more. If you get some resistance from those older ones, it’s going to have a negative effect all the way down. They pushed and I think that had a trickle-down effect so the younger girls wanted push harder.”

Lovering said it started with senior Blakley White. She became a starter in the midfield for her final season and despite her career coming to a halt sooner than expected, she could not have asked for a better way to be sent off.

In the final match, White made the game-winning penalty kick against Elmore County and with the way her teammates reacted, it was easy to see how much she meant to the Bulldogs. Lovering said White received the team’s Bulldog Award which encompasses showing leadership qualities and community involvement.

“That shows what she means to this team and to the community,” Lovering said. “She was one of our team captains and that was why. She worked the hardest and showed everyone how it should be done. Even the girls who were better at soccer looked up to her. That’s the kind of attitude you’re looking for to change the outside look on Holtville girls soccer. She embodied every part of it.”

Leslie Aldana may have made the biggest impact on the field, becoming the leading goal scorer for the senior class. She saw limited playing time in her first two years but when Hannah Westbrook graduated, the Bulldogs needed to find a source for more goals and Aldana helped provide some of that.

“She was on the fence last year but she came up and was a big part of the offense this year,” Lovering said. “She scored a few goals and she helped make some things happen.”

Katie Reeves and Shelby Gonzalez both joined the team for just their senior seasons as they were brought on by their younger sisters who were enjoying their time with the program. Both players served as reserve defenders but Lovering said it was just encouraging to know girls wanted to join the team even for just one year.

“It goes to what you’re trying to build here,” Lovering said. “It shows that one of those players that has gone through everything and loves it so much, they want their sister to come out there with her. It’s just a cool story and it makes it feel more like a family.”

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.