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AMS girls soccer finishes milestone season

AMS girls soccer finishes milestone season
Posted on 12/05/2019
Nearly three years ago, Arlington Middle’s Coach Christopher Kaldon was tasked with something he had never done before. Dr. Allison Clark, the principal at AMS, asked him to build from the ground up a middle school girls soccer team. This was not in his wheelhouse.

“I mean…I coached a high school team in North Carolina years ago, but I didn’t know anything about forming a middle school team, especially from scratch,” he said.

Coach K started this new journey by recruiting players by word of mouth and posting tryout flyers, but he had no clue who would answer the call. “Will they have experience,” he asked. “Have they played together before? Will I be an effective coach to such young players?”

It went about as he expected. “It was a trial and error,” he laughed. “The first year I did it alone, and it was pretty crazy.” The team won just one game that year.

He didn’t realize at the time, though, that he was a building a core group of athletes who would stay with the team all three years – from 6th to 8th grade – a team that would soon be a force to reckon with.

The original five 6th graders at the time consisted of Alaina Owens, Bella Mendieta, Claire Walker, Lillie Rogers and Lydia English – they the original members of the very first girls’ soccer team in Arlington Middle’s history to have played all three years, and they just completed their 8th grade season.

“As a team, we’ve gotten a whole lot better,” player Claire Walker said. “We trust each other more. We know each other’s abilities and where we need to fill in the gaps.”

“I think everyone had a good attitude,” player Lydia English added. “We were always ready for practice, and we always worked hard in the games. We always had each other’s backs.”

Lydia, especially, looked out for her teammates. During the very first tryouts in 2017, Coach K cut Lydia’s friend Macy Cook. Lydia knew Macy would make the team better, so the next year she convinced – begged, really – Macy to try out for the team again.

“I looked at Macy and asked why she didn’t try out the first year,” Coach K laughed. “She was quick to shoot me these piercing eyes and said I cut her. She came back and proved me wrong, and I’m so glad she did.”

The addition of Macy, as well as the group maturing overtime and the addition of an assistant coach – Michele Bishop – all helped this young team rally back its second season to make it to the championship. They lost to West Collierville, but still snagged second place overall.

This year, the team’s third season, was just as successful. After a stunning defeat against Riverdale (a game where Coach K was “jumping and screaming on the sidelines and possibly happier” than the players were), the AMS Tigers competed once again in the championship to face three-time reigning champs West Collierville. The Tigers came up short again, but they saw improvements from the year before.

“They were a lot better than us that first year we made it to the championship, but we closed the competitive gap this year,” Kaldon said. “Our girls are learning the game more and becoming stronger athletes.”

Clearly, the team’s loss against West Collierville in the finals wasn’t what they had hope for, but they still consider themselves winners. They’re now looking back, with three years in the rearview mirror, with amazement at how far they’ve come.

“We started out as shy, introverted girls,” Macy said. “But I think we all grew into leaders, and we definitely weren’t that as 6th graders.”