For any defense to succeed on the pitch, a strong connection is vital, and women’s soccer central defenders Alison Alcott and Meredith Martin have it mastered.
The powerful duo’s contrasting playing styles are what make their bond undeniable.
“They are left and right hand, yin and yang. They’ll joke around about it,” said Belmont coach Heather Henson. “When one has been injured, the other’s like, ‘where’s my buddy? Where’s my right hand?’”
The characteristics Alcott and Martin each possess on the pitch can be spotted instantly. Martin brings a more fiery passion to the field, while the calm and collective composure from Alcott adds a different element.
They are like fire and ice for Belmont, but it’s still evident why the pair works cohesively together.
“I think we balanced each other out well. Meredith’s a little bit more kamikaze, and I’m a little more reserved,” said Alcott. “She’ll just go get them, and I’ll just slide and cover behind. If the role switches, she’s always there for me, too.”
“Chemistry is important. You kind of get to the point where, yeah, we communicate, but I know she’s going to be there behind me, or she knows that I’m going to be there behind her. You just trust them,” she said.
Much like their playing styles, each defender’s path to Belmont started differently.
Growing up in Franklin, Tenn., Martin said she set her mind on going out of state. However as the recruiting process began, her original plans made a 180-degree turn. She eventually narrowed her choice down to Belmont.
“The minute I stepped foot on Belmont’s campus, I knew this is where I was suppose to be. The team was awesome. It was good soccer, but good academics because we’re student athletes too,” she said.
Martin already established a previous connection with Henson as the coach originally recruited the defender at her previous coaching job. Luckily, both made the move to Belmont in 2011.
“I had a really good comfort level with what I believed Mere could do as I watched her through recruiting process. I knew she was a very versatile player,” said Henson. “She was a competitor and could manage organizing a backline. The elements I look for a center back, I knew she could do.”
As for Alcott, the Dallas native appreciated the small environment Belmont offered in a different town.
“I just wanted a small-school feel where Division I soccer was present, as well as a strong community vibe. Belmont brought all of that,” she said. “I wanted to see a different place, and Nashville is awesome city. All the girls on the team were awesome.”
While Henson wasn’t involved in her recruitment to Belmont, Alcott impressed her immediately in the preseason when she arrived on campus. The defender earned a starting role her freshman year among an experienced backline.
“Ali reads the game really well and wasn’t going to shy off tackles or be a freshman. She actually ended up playing with three seniors around her,” said Henson. “She managed that and played like a veteran. She was able to mentally process that, which was a huge thing.”
Throughout their four years starting for Belmont, both Alcott and Martin understand the role of a center back position.
“Center backs are like the anchor of the backline. A lot of direction is being given and making sure everyone is on the same page on the field. It’s a big vocal role as well as physical,” said Alcott.
Although verbal communication is important, each girl usually has a sense of where the other is without saying a word.
“They’ll do stuff even in training or games where they didn’t talk. They just knew Mere was stepping here, and Alcott was lining here. So Mere knew she could step even if she didn’t hear or see Alcott. That’s the great thing about them playing together for so long,” said Henson.
Aside from their connection on the pitch, both seniors focus their time and attention on their studies. Martin will earn a degree in public relations in May while Alcott will graduate from Belmont’s nursing program.
“On the road or on campus, they understand what it means and how it means to be a student-athlete, especially in their career choices,” Henson said.
When the two aren’t kicking back on the pitch or in the classroom, Alcott and Martin enjoy watching movies and having baking parties with one another.
“If it’s a tough soccer day, we’ll get together and make cookies and vent about it,” said Martin.
With the duo graduating in the spring, Henson reflected on their positive contributions to the women’s soccer program.
“They have been comfortable with who they are, and it’s such a life lesson for anyone. Nine times out of 10 when you see them, they’re laughing. It just brings more energy to the team.”
Photo courtesy: David Pelham