Alabama Crimson Tide historic, rise-to-power soccer story still unfolding

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - JANUARY 01: A general view of Alabama Crimson Tide logo outside of the team locker room before the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Rose Bowl football game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at AT&T Stadium on January 01, 2021 in Arlington, Texas. The Alabama Crimson Tide defeated the Notre Dame Fighting Irish 31-14. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TEXAS - JANUARY 01: A general view of Alabama Crimson Tide logo outside of the team locker room before the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Rose Bowl football game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at AT&T Stadium on January 01, 2021 in Arlington, Texas. The Alabama Crimson Tide defeated the Notre Dame Fighting Irish 31-14. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images) /

Alabama has long been known as a football school. Well, this autumn it really did turn into a football school. Alabama Crimson Tide Soccer is one of the top teams in the nation.

What Americans call soccer the rest of the world calls football, and that global sport took on a distinct crimson and white hue this fall. At the collegiate level here in the USA anyway. During a time of the year when the pigskin reigns supreme in these parts, Alabama has done what few thought possible and made the soccer ball not just a thing of beauty but a newfound source of pride and enthusiasm among fans of the script A.

Oh, it’s not like Alabama hasn’t fielded a women’s soccer team before. It has. Every year since 1986. But it’s never had a season like this one. Nowhere close. This one has been special. This one has been ceiling-shattering. This one has been historic. This one will never be forgotten. This one shouted thunderously to the world, Hey, we’re Alabama, and we can play the world’s game with the world’s best. Or at least the NCAA’s best.

The still-unfolding story began with a pleasant enough start back in mid-August. Wins over Vanderbilt, Florida Atlantic and Southern Miss. A road loss at Miami. Nice little beginning. Cue the golf clap. But, hey, Nick Saban’s bunch is in the middle of fall camp. Who’s gonna step up at receiver in 2022?

Then came the blasts heard ’round the women’s college soccer world.

First, on August 28, Alabama didn’t just upset No. 18 Clemson in Tuscaloosa, it overpowered the favored Tigers, 3-0. Three days later the Tide produced an even louder earthquake, traveling to Provo, Utah and topping No. 6 BYU. Yeah, that BYU. The BYU that less than a year ago played for the 2021 national championship, falling in extra-time penalty kicks to perennial power Florida State.


Had Alabama — ever a middling, lower-echelon, completely off-the-grid, irrelevant soccer school — really ascended all the way to the upper stratosphere of women’s college soccer? Just like that. Had eighth-year head coach Wes Hart truly turned his unknown squad, unranked and unheralded to start the season, into a national contender? If nothing else, people across the country were now keenly interested to the soccer being played just down the street from Bryant-Denny Stadium.

The Tide settled for a 1-1 draw at Utah following the stunning win over the Cougars, tempering expectations just a tad, but two more wins — over Utah Valley and North Alabama — upped the Tide’s record to 7-1-1 with No. 5 South Carolina set to visit the Alabama soccer complex on September 15. Could Alabama do it again? Knock off another highly-ranked foe? Or was it just a case of short-lived Labor Day weekend magic in early September?

The answer was an emphatic one. Alabama 2. South Carolina zilch. If it wasn’t clear after the wins over Clemson and BYU, it was certainly clear after the win over the Gamecocks that this 2022 Alabama soccer team was for real. And not going away. The wins kept coming. At home. On the road. Here. There. Wherever they showed up. Down went Chattanooga. And Tennessee. And Texas A&M. And Georgia.

Another ranked opponent in the form of No. 20 Ole Miss came to Tuscaloosa on October 6. The Rebels couldn’t stop this runaway crimson-and-white freight train either. Another road trip? More of the same. Alabama 5. LSU nothing. Would No. 7 Arkansas be Alabama’s bugaboo and snap the win streak? Nope. Alabama 2. Arkansas 1. The Crimson Tide went on the road to wrap up the SEC West with a 4-1 win over Mississippi State last Thursday and then secured its first-ever SEC regular-season championship with a 2-0 home victory over Florida on Sunday.

With the calendar now creeping toward November, Alabama’s record now stands at a sparkling 16-1-1 with one regular season game remaining — at Auburn tonight — before the SEC Tournament kicks off next week in Pensacola, Florida. The win streak? It’s now at 12. And counting.

Oh, and about that unranked status to start the season. Well, Alabama does indeed have a team ranked No. 1 in the country as the leaves turn various shades of crimson, gold and orange and flutter gently to the ground. It’s just not the Alabama team everyone expected back in August. These players don’t wear shoulder pads. They wear shin guards. And, since September 6 they know only thing. Winning.

When they take the field, Alabama’s cleat-wearing women come hard. They come to vanquish. They come to dominate. They may fall behind early — as they did recently against Ole Miss and Arkansas — but they keep coming. They keep fighting. They keep battling. They find a way to finish on top.

Their grit is matched only by the mesmerizing, eye-pleasing flair they display as they subdue their foes. Art on blades of grass. Poetry in motion. Watching 2022 Alabama soccer is like being treated to a dance, a performance, a grand symphony orchestra in concert — an eclectic ensemble of perfectly in-tune pieces all blending together to create the sweetest of sights and sounds. What they’re able to do with a ball at their feet — the deft flicks, the quick stops, the jaw-dropping turns, the bending passes, the spot-on headers, the shots on goal that seem to have eyes for the net seem almost unreal. Did she really just do that with the ball? How is that even humanly possible?

The sport no one ever associated with Alabama prior to this season is now the sport Alabama has mastered these last two months better than any other school in the country. As a team. Individually, too. Bama midfielder Felicia Knox currently leads the nation in assists with 15. Teammate Riley Mattingly Parker is tied for second in the nation in game-winning goals with five and just this week was named SEC Offensive Player of the Week for the third time this season. And then there’s Bama goalkeeper McKinley Crone who earned SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors for the second-straight week. Kat Rogers was named to the Community Service Team.

They win games. They top standings. They capture championships. They lead stats. They garner individual accolades. This 2022 Alabama soccer team does it all.

Yeah, Alabama Crimson Tide fans can rightly hold up that single index finger. The No. 1-ranked women’s soccer team in all the land calls Tuscaloosa home. Not bad when at the start of the season four SEC teams held a spot in the Top 25 and a fifth received votes and none of those teams was the one hoisting the SEC championship trophy Sunday night at the Alabama Soccer Stadium.

Alabama soccer? A ho-hum, shoulder-shrug, way-off-in-the-margin program no more.

Alabama Crimson Tide SEC Soccer Champions

Anyone who doubts that Alabama is now a soccer school wasn’t at the Alabama Soccer Stadium late Sunday night when the Crimson Tide players, proudly donning their SEC champion caps and T-shirts, jumped and danced and hugged and cried and exulted and posed for photos, celebrating the school’s first-ever conference title in front of a beaming-with-pride, record-setting, overflow crowd of 1,882 — a number never before seen at the Alabama Soccer Stadium — as well as a contingent of the Alabama band.

Hart received his well-deserved Gatorade bath. Seniors were honored. Riveting videos were played on the big screen. To one storybook season, the night felt like the perfect ending.

Only … it wasn’t.

A famous Alabama football coach once said: This is not the end. This is the beginning.

It feels that way now about Alabama women’s soccer. After the trip to the Plains tonight, Alabama’s rise-to-power 2022 run will shift into the postseason next week. Where this cinematic-worthy drama will ultimately end and with what additional scintillating moments, dazzling goals, brilliant through passes, stirring slide tackles, heart-stopping finishes is anyone’s guess.

Fact is, however and wherever this unforgettable 2022 ride ends for this Alabama soccer team, there’s a sense now that the big-picture story of Alabama Crimson Tide Soccer is just getting started. It feels like the Crimson Tide is here in this sport to stay. For years to come. And this 2022 team will go down in history as the one that got it all rolling.

dark. Next. Going deeper in the Crimson Tide backfield

Yeah, Alabama is still a football school. But the world’s football? Well, everyone knows now that Alabama can play a little of that too.