Athlete of the Week: Molly Williams leads the Rams on the pitch

Published 10:03 am Saturday, March 16, 2024

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Valley’s girls soccer team is off to a 3-3 start this season, and the program has already accomplished several firsts this season. At the head of Valley’s attack has been junior striker Molly Williams. 

Williams has been on a tear through the early parts of the season. Currently, Williams leads the team with 14 goals, 13 steals and four assists. Williams has also been lights out during critical moments this season as she has already scored three game-winners. 

Williams has been playing soccer since she was three, and she has been starting for Valley since she was in the eighth grade. Early on, this season looks to be Williams’ best yet. 

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Williams’ improvement on the pitch did not come overnight. Soccer is a full-time sport for Williams as she plays club soccer with Opelika Crush. Playing at the club level and constantly working on her craft has made Williams one of the most confident soccer players in the area. 

“I’ve grown because … I play club soccer, so I’ve been training,” Williams said. “I’ve also improved my footwork. It just gave me a lot more confidence playing soccer because I can do the work…” 

Being a dynamic athlete comes with its drawbacks, and Williams has definitely faced her share of challenges this season. 

Teams have learned early on that Williams is the best striker for the Rams, and those teams have assigned three or more defenders to Williams at all times. That much attention makes it tougher for Williams, but she has still found ways to get her teammates involved and take shots. 

“It is very frustrating, I’m used to that now though,” Williams said. “I just try to work around them and find ways to adapt and pass around them. It’s difficult, but we figure it out.”

Williams is involved regularly with club soccer while also being a state champion for Valley’s Health Occupation Students of America program. Williams is also the vice president of her class and is involved with several other clubs. 

Outside of all her responsibilities, Williams still finds extra time to work with Martin Matanda, a personal coach who has helped several soccer players in the state. 

“He’s really helped me,” Williams said. “We do a lot of agility and a lot of footwork with the ladders and stuff.” 

Williams has helped the Rams improve in all aspects this season, and she has been a major asset for Valley coach Fern Piper. Piper has seen Williams’ skillset grow in her two years as head coach, and Williams has become one of the building blocks of the program. 

“Her skill level in the last few years has just skyrocketed,” Piper said. “As a captain of our team, she’s loud upfront as a striker. Everybody can hear her all the way back. She’s always guiding everybody on which way to go. If they can’t get it done, she’ll go all the way down the field, bust it out and take off with it.” 

One of the most crucial parts of building up female sports is developing athletes to be tough and push through some of the things that non-athletes might struggle with. Williams has been the epitome of toughness for Valley this season, and she serves as an example for other athletes at Valley. 

“There’s a lot of female athletes here now,” Piper said. “I think it takes good coaches to raise them to be tough enough to play the sports. Parents have to help, you’ve got to have the community helping. Her Crush coach, I’m sure him bringing her up, he’s built her to be a machine. When she’s out there, she doesn’t think about pain. She’ll go on the bus and go ‘Well, crap. Where did that come from.”’

Valley’s soccer team has improved in several aspects this season, but the most important improvement has been the close bond developed within the team. The Rams are having fun on the pitch, and the overall product has improved as a result. 

Williams is the captain of the Rams and has become a true leader. Williams acts as another coach on the field, and the rest of the team has bought into her leadership. 

“I take being a captain very seriously,” Williams said. “I think it’s such a great opportunity to be a captain of a team. Since I am one of the older girls on the team, I really try to be the best leader I can be for the younger girls.” 

“I’m seeing improvements, I feel like every single game. “The girls are adaptable, and they’re quick learners. If I tell them they need to do something, it’s quick.” 

The Rams are currently at .500 on the season, but Williams has her eyes set on making history and reaching a higher level this season. 

“My goal is to make playoffs and eventually make state,” Williams said. “Especially since next year is my last season, have to push to that goal, make playoffs and make history.” 

Williams sets a high standard for the team, but her goals for herself are even higher. Williams plans on playing collegiate soccer and eventually becoming a nurse. Williams has looked up to athletes like Alex Morgan for her whole life, and she has always dreamed of getting to the next level.

“Since I was like born,” Williams said. “Since I first started touching the ball, that’s always been what I’ve wanted to do. I’ve always looked up to Alex Morgan and always wanted to be like her. That’s the goal.” 

Soccer, and especially womens soccer, is one of the smallest sports in terms of participation in Chambers County and Alabama. Williams hopes to change that and be an ambassador for the sport moving forward. 

“I think it’s very important to grow, especially womens soccer in this area,” Williams said. “It is not very common where we are. I think getting it out there and getting players, building them up from younger levels is essential…”