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Goalie? Scorer? Hawks’ Welch is both

Alyssa Welch of Ironwood Ridge has played both in goal and as a striker for the Nighthawks this year.

Alyssa Welch of Ironwood Ridge has played both in goal and as a striker for the Nighthawks this year.

Alyssa Welch excels at multiple positions on the soccer field.

The question of where to start her is one coach Sean Watkins has to deal with before every game.

Her willingness to play any position, and play it well, makes Watkins’ decision an easy one. He can’t go wrong.

For most of the season, Welch, 18, has started as goalkeeper, but Watkins plans to utilize his versatile senior star more exclusively as an attacker as the season winds down.

“As a keeper, she is very aggressive. She comes off the line and she is fearless,” Watkins said. “When we need more of a threat going forward, she goes on the field and does that for us.”

Welch, who transferred to Ironwood Ridge this year from Flowing Wells, has helped the Nighthawks to an 11-8-2 record and 1-1 in the 5A Southern-II Region, which begins its season tournament Jan. 22.

At Flowing Wells, Welch played all over the field – defender, keeper and forward. As a sophomore during the 2005-06 season, she helped the Caballeros advance to the Class 5A Division II state championship, where the team fell to Avondale Westview.

But soccer wasn’t even in the cards for Welch when she made the move to Ironwood Ridge. Instead, Welch, who sat out her junior season while recovering from November 2006 shoulder surgery, planned to play softball for the Nighthawks.

“I wasn’t planning on playing soccer, but all the girls (on the team) were telling me how much they needed a goalie,” Welch said. “I love the game and I couldn’t stay away from it, so I decided to come out. It has been a lot of fun and I’m glad I came out.”

Welch has accepted a scholarship offer to play softball at Idaho State University in Pocatello, Idaho, after graduation.

“In soccer, I use my speed up front and in softball I use my speed as a (slap hitter),” Welch said. “I would say my speed is what connects the two.”

Aside from her speed, her energy makes her a coach’s dream.

“She is a spark plug, I will tell you that,” Watkins said. “She is a competitor and very athletic and incredibly strong. She isn’t your typical soccer player because she plays softball, also.”

Welch has been playing sports since she was 5 and has had the support of her parents along the way.

“Our family is very big on sports,” Welch said. “I guess it has been part of our family and my parents got me into sports when I was really little.”

Thirteen years later, her speed and love of athletics has paid off.

On Dec. 31, she was named most outstanding goalkeeper in the Tucson Champions Cup soccer tournament. She also is one of the leading scorers for the Nighthawks.

Despite Welch being only 5 foot 2, Watkins has no reservations of putting her in the net, a position often reserved for taller players.

“She’s not the tallest player, but she gets up there to make saves,” Watkins said. “Obviously she is missing that component in her brain that processes fear. As a coach, I love her personality and how hard she works and her competitive nature.”

As the season winds down for the Nighthawks, Welch is looking forward to going deep into the state tournament.

“I think we are going to do great and I think we are going to go really far in the regionals,” Welch said. “Hopefully, we will make it to the championship game at state. If we make it, we’ll win because of that intensity and momentum.”

For more musings on high school sports, check out the Grammer School sports blog.



Who: Alyssa Welch, senior, goalkeeper/attacker for Ironwood Ridge Nighthawks

Difficult to defend: “The word is getting out about her and we have several players that are dangerous,” Ironwood Ridge coach Sean Watkins said. “With Alyssa up top, it makes other players more dangerous. Other teams have to adjust their defense to deal with her and if they don’t, she goes past them for a goal.”

Superstition: “I listen to the same song before every game,” Welch said. “It gets me pumped. It is a kind of weird because it is a country song.”

The song she listens to is “Our Song” by Taylor Swift.

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