Photo: Southside High School senior Alana Morton signs a soccer scholarship with Jacksonville State University on December 2. Pictured, sitting, from left: Alana’s brother Hunter, Alana’s dad Joseph Morton, Alana, Alana’s mom Alex James. Standing, from left: SHS girls soccer coach Tiffany Cargill, Hoover/Vestavia Soccer Club coach Kat Nichols. (Chris McCarthy/Messenger)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
Alana Morton will continue her athletic career only 20 miles down the road from her soon-to-be alma mater.
The Southside High senior secured her future for the next four years after signing a soccer scholarship with Jacksonville State University on December 2.
“I went on a visit [to JSU] and met all the girls on the team, and they were very nice and the coaches are very knowledgeable,” said Morton. “The campus is close to home. I want to thank my family that has always supported me and guided me in the right direction. My mom pushed me every day to not only be the best player but the best person.”A starter since her eighth-grade year, Morton helped the Lady Panthers finish as state runners-up in 2019 and state semifinalists in 2021 and 2018. Most of the 2020 season was cancelled due to the COVID-10 pandemic. In 75 games at defense, mid-field and striker, she scored 25 goals, including 20 last seasons as Southside went 15-2, won the area and made it to the Class 6A Final Four in Huntsville.
“Alana’s athletic prowess is founded on her immense heart and extreme determination,” said Southside girls soccer coach Tiffany Cargill. “She plays with an intensity that is typically unmatched by her opponents due to her formidable disposition. Alana is an inspiring example and a leader for her teammates.”
Academically, Morton currently maintains a 3.7 GPA and is a member of the National Honor Society and Future Business Leader of America. She plans on majoring in pre-med at Jacksonville State.
Kat Nichols, Morton’s coach at Hoover-Vestavia Soccer Club, said Morton is one of toughest players she has ever coached.
“The day Alana stepped onto the field on the first day of practice earlier this year, she showed an intensity that was unmatched by anybody else on our team. She went from the 19th player on our team to earning a starting spot after our first game. As a former college soccer player, if there was anyone I didn’t want to get into a battle with, it’s this girl right here.
“Alana’s been a blessing for our team, not just be-cause of her work ethic and the way she leads by example, but because of her happy-go-lucky spirit. Alana always knows how to make people smile and laugh, and that’s been a big part of our team chemistry.”
Alabama Rush Soccer Coaching Director Bill Martin, who helped the Gadsden High School boys soccer team win several state championships in the early and mid-1990s, spoke about watching Morton and teammate Camryn Davis’ progress from youth soccer through high school.
“When I coached Alana and Cam, we butted heads because all three of us very competitive, but they were the leaders on my team,” he said. “I’ve basically seen these two young ladies grow up. They’re like seeds we planted a long time ago, so seeing these seeds grow and being nurtured, both inside and outside the game, has been amazing. These ladies love and are committed to the game and they’re showing other young ladies around here what the game can give you if you’re willing to put in the work.”
Morton recently suffered a stress fracture in her right knee but said she will be ready to go once winter practice begins in mid-January. She will join a Gamecock squad that went 7-10-2 while competing in the ASUN Conference. Jacksonville State will move to Conference USA next season.
“I want to thank all of my coaches over the years who have made a major impact in shaping me into the player I am today,” she said. “Coach Cargill has influenced me so much, not only on a soc-cer level but everything else. She taught me how to rise above adversity and push through pain, both physically and mentally. I can’t thank her enough for all she has done for me.”
Morton is looking forward to playing college soccer with Davis, who signed with JSU last month.
“We’ve been playing together since first grade, so I’m glad to be going [to JSU] with someone I know.”