By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
Photo: Westbrook Christian senior Mattie Loyd signed a soccer scholarship to Jacksonville State on Feb. 7 in Rainbow City. Pictured, sitting, from left: Mattie’s mom Leah, Mattie, Mattie’s dad Jonathan. Standing, from left: Northeast Alabama Fusion F.C. Coaching Director Jeremy Massa, Westbrook assistant principal and athletic director Matt Kennedy, Westbrook girls soccer coach Joel Hawbaker. (Chris McCarthy/Messenger)
A home-grown soccer product recently reaped the rewards of outstanding work both in the classroom and on the pitch.
Westbrook Christian senior Mattie Loyd signed a soccer scholarship with Division I Jacksonville State University on Feb. 7.
A four-year starter at goalkeeper, Loyd was a major factor in the Lady Warriors’ two straight area championships and consecutive state runner-up finishes in Class 1A-3A the past two seasons. With Loyd anchoring the defense, Westbrook went 43-8 the last two years. She was an honorable mention All-State selection last season and made second team All-State her junior year.
“It’s really hard to put into words how great this feels,” said Loyd, who has 42 career shutouts and seven postseason wins under her belt. “I’ve been working for this since I was six or seven years old. For the past few years, I’ve been going to school to workouts to soccer practice to goalkeeper training, and then when I got home, my parents made me run. But it all was worth it.”
As a three-sport athlete, Loyd was an All-Area selection in both volleyball and basketball for the Lady Warriors. Due to a back injury, she missed the end of the volleyball season and all of the basketball season but feels she is in top shape for soccer this spring.
“I thought that I was going to be in bad shape because I hadn’t done anything for four months, but yesterday I ran for two miles and felt great.”
Loyd pointed to early goalie training by former Fusion club ball coach and current Glencoe High girls soccer coach Craig Smith as an important part of her development.
“Coach Craig really was the one that started me out in goalkeeping. I remember when I was about 11 and no one else wanted to play goal. He threw me in there, and I was like, ‘Okay, I’ve got to do this.’ We won state a couple of times and went to a few regional [tournaments], so it worked out pretty well.”
Smith said that Loyd showed some athleticism in goal and he began teaching her a few tricks of the trade
“I just taught her what I could and she went to a few goalie camps on her own,” he said. “A lot of of what I taught Mattie came from Kerri Smith, a D-I coach who helped Mattie latter on. Jess Scerbo also had lot to do with Mattie’s improvement.”
Smith said he began seeing college potential in Loyd when she was about 15 years old.
“Mattie’s just got better and better every year she played. We’ve only scored on her once in six matches, so that says a lot. I’m just so proud for her. Even though now I have to play against her sometimes, I still love her to death and treat her just like she was one of my own kids.”
Northeast Alabama Fusion F.C. Coaching Director Jeremy Massa, who watched Loyd develop her skills in club ball over several seasons, noted that the mindset of local soccer standouts wanting to compete for Birmingham-area clubs in order to draw attention has diminished.
“This goes to show that our local kids don’t have to go to BUSA or Vestavia Hills to get a good D-I scholarship. Mattie’s a great example of our talent level. She came through the beginning of the program all the way until she graduated. She was always a leader on every team she was on and always had a smile on her face.”
Westbrook girls head soccer coach Joel Hawbaker took over the school’s soccer program when Loyd was an eighth grader.
“We talk a lot in our soccer program of how we want to build young women of character in addition to having success on the field,” he said. “We want Mattie to be so much more that a great goaltender, and she’s done that and will continue to do that. She’s brought that example to practice every day in working hard and having a great attitude, and her academics are where they need to be.
“Mattie’s a great foundation to build upon. When you know that your defense is going to keep you in the game, you have confidence to attack the entire field. For being a smaller school, we’ve been blessed with an awful lot of talent. The truth is a lot of these girls are great players before they get to me, which makes my job a lot easier and a lot more fun.
“There’s a lot of people who contributed to the player that Mattie is, including Coach Massa and Coach Craig Smith over at Glencoe. Mattie’s just a great kid, and she and her fellow seniors have been respectful and trustworthy who work hard day in and day and out. They’re the kind of people who we’re proud to say are Westbrook soccer players.”
Loyd and her Westbrook teammates are intent on bringing the state’s first-place blue trophy to Rainbow City this season.
“We lost a lot of defenders from last year, but we have several girls coming up that actually are dominant defenders,” said Loyd, who plans on studying biology at JSU. “It will take a lot of work to get there, but I think we can do it. We’re all excited to get started.”