UNA soccer freshmen take on large role

Freshman forward Kylie Huey (15) attempts to steal the ball from a Cumberland defender in the UNA soccer team’s 2-1 overtime victory Sept. 27. Huey is one of the many freshmen making an impact for the Lions this season.

by Associate Sports Editor Kadin Pounders

The transition from high school to college can be a tough one, especially for student-athletes adjusting to a new city, a new school and new teammates.

A few freshmen on the UNA soccer team, however, appear to have made that transition seamlessly.

Kylie Huey, Margarida Sousa and Paige Porter were hundreds of miles away from Florence this time last year, but now all three are together and are major contributors to one of the best soccer programs in Division II.

The two other freshmen on the active roster — forward and Florence native Anna Katherine Green and goalkeeper Kate Webster — have given the Lions valuable play as subs off the bench.

“All five of the true freshmen we brought in we expected to come in and compete for playing time,” said head coach Chris Walker. “We expected some to come in and start just because of the level we knew they were capable of playing.”

Huey, a forward from Arlington, Tennessee, has five goals this season, the most by any freshman in the GSC. She started in seven of UNA’s eight games and was named GSC Soccer Freshman of the Week for two consecutive weeks.

Despite the newcomer’s success on the field, getting to this point was a fight for the former prep all-star.

“The speed of play (in college) is a lot different, and the girls are more physical on the field,” Huey said. “In high school, I was used to starting, but when I came (to UNA) I really had to fight for my way to start in games.”

Walker had high expectations for Huey coming in and is pleased with her performance so far this season.

“We already knew what (Huey) was capable of. I think she was a little overlooked in the Memphis area so we were glad when we got her committed,” he said. “Once she got her first goal, the pressure was off her shoulders, and she’s been enjoying it. She’s been freshman of the week two weeks in a row. She has deserved it.”

Huey’s teammate Sousa also played well in her first season with the Lions. All the way from Portugal, Sousa has made the move to America and been a productive member of the UNA midfield.

“I think at first it was just a big culture shock for Margarida, coming from massive Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, to tiny Florence, Alabama,” Walker said. “The more and more she plays, the more time she spends here, the better she’s going to get.”

Alongside Sousa in the midfield is Porter, who has started every match for UNA this season. Porter’s style of play has been a plus for the Lions this season.

“Paige has been fantastic,” Walker said. “She has stepped in straight away and added a more aggressive presence to our midfield.”

The stat sheet does not show the importance of her position, but Porter is focused more on team success than individual attention.

“The buildup between the defense and the midfield is what allows (forwards) to score and make the headlines,” she said. “I’m completely fine with not being in the headlines, but I know it’s all a team effort.”

UNA’s five freshmen and the rest of the squad will be on the road Oct. 2 to take on GSC foe Valdosta State.