Something clicked in Alabama soccer’s back line after a 4-2 loss to Florida Gulf Coast more than a week ago. Since then, the Crimson Tide has allowed just one goal, which was scored in the 81st minute of the Rice game after Alabama built a significant 3-0 lead.
“We hadn’t really had much experience, since preseason is so short,” defender Nealy Martin said. “Just getting those four games behind our belt definitely helped us see what we needed to work on. We were able to train a lot of our issues that we had in the first couple of games.”
The starting back line is made up of senior Kayla Mouton, who has started since she was a sophomore, Martin, who has started all but six games in her Alabama career, and sophomore Brynn Martin, who has started every game since joining Alabama.
“I’ve been playing with Kayla all three years I’ve been here, so I know how she plays, what she’s going to do,” Nealy Martin said. “Brynn is just a really smart player. I trust her a lot… She teaches me a lot about the game that I wouldn’t have known.”
Even though she is the youngest of the starting backline, Brynn Martin is its leader. During games, she is shouting instructions to both Mouton and Nealy Martin, as well as the midfielders once they move back into defense.
“She’s an intelligent player,” coach Wes Hart said. “She doesn’t have the athleticism that the other two have, but she reads the game well and she’s a good organizer and a good communicator, which is why she’s playing that spot.”
Hart implemented a 3-4-3 formation last year and it has been productive so far in its second year. In this formation Nealy Martin and Mouton are helping in the attack, while Brynn Martin stays back and mostly covers the opposing forward.
“I think it suits Nealy and Kayla with their speed and their ability to run with the ball. I think they both provide a huge threat out of the back carrying the ball forward,” Hart said.
It showed as Nealy Martin found the back of the net her first career goal on Sunday in the 5-1 win over Rice.
Alabama puts its three-game winning streak on the line against South Alabama on Thursday. The Jaguars are 2-3 and 1-0 on the road. Moa Ohman and Hannah Godfrey led the team in goals with two apiece. Keeper Justice Stanford has 19 saves on the season.
The Crimson Tide then faces off against the 1-4-1 Troy Trojans on Sunday, Sept. 9. The Trojans have been outscored 16-5 this season, including a 0-5 loss to Florida State and a 2-5 loss to Ole Miss.