Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Making history: Senior Molly Atherton


With a swift kick, Senior midfielder Molly Atherton scored the game-winning goal against then-No. 20 Georgia, cementing Alabama as a threat to the rest of the SEC this season. When the ball hit the back of the net in overtime, it sealed the first road victory of the season for the Crimson Tide, and Atherton made it happen. If Atherton had to describe her soccer career in one word, she would say it was unforgettable.

Hailing from Gulfport, Miss., Atherton said she knew she belonged at Alabama after her first campus visit; however, she committed to the Crimson Tide because she believed in a dream to make history.

“I think the big thing that always sticks with me is that I could make history here and really be able to turn this program around, which was pretty much a selling point for me, and I think that’s ultimately why I chose to come here,” Atherton said. “I wanted to be a part of something big. While we may have not seen all the success we have wanted to see these past four years, the change of culture is a tremendous difference.”

Alabama hasn’t made the postseason since the 2011-12 season – the only time in her career Alabama made it that far. But she could make history again this week as she and the team get ready to face Auburn in a game with a simple outcome: The winner goes to the SEC tournament, and the loser’s season is over.

Before joining the Crimson Tide, Atherton started out playing anything and everything she could get her hands on, whether it was soccer, softball, tennis or even board games. Atherton’s father, John Atherton, said she was very active throughout her childhood, but around the age of 11, she realized that soccer was her passion.

“Around some point, at like 11, Molly decided that soccer was her sport,” John Atherton said. “She started playing travel soccer around age 10 or 11 and always played above her age. Later on, around 17, she dropped back down to play in her own age group to play club soccer. We think that helped her a great deal, because she had to play stronger, faster to draw attention to herself.”

Alabama coach Todd Bramble said with Molly’s passion for the game, recruiting her was simple.

“When I was able to evaluate her, I wasn’t necessarily evaluating her against players in Mississippi. I was evaluating her against other players who I knew to be some of the best players in the Southeast,” Bramble said. “The fact that she could hold her own, in that group, told me a lot about her as a player and what her potential would be.”

Atherton, though, has not forgotten her hometown, sporting an otherwise seemingly arbitrary No. 56 jersey.

“I’ll never forget about [assistant coach] Jason [Lowe], though. He came up with my number 56,” she said. “We were talking one day – really close to the time I was about to come on campus – and we were thinking about what number I wanted to be because the number I had was stolen by someone. And he was like, ‘What about 56?’ Because 228 is the area code for Gulfport, and 2×28 is 56, and we were kind of like, ‘I’ll always be representing my hometown.’”

Throughout her career, Atherton has seen the Crimson Tide both in success and failure. In her sophomore year, the midfielder helped the team get to the NCAA tournament in Miami, Fla., the first time Alabama had made it since 1998.

To get there, Alabama needed a win against No. 1 South Carolina in the SEC tournament. Atherton had the only goal in a 1-0 Crimson Tide win.

“I’ll never forget that,” she said. “It was probably the one of the highlights of my career. And that ultimately gave us the bid to the NCAA tournament.”

Alabama lost to Miami 3-2 in double overtime that year in the NCAA tournament and has yet to return to the postseason. But that could change Thursday.

“Now, two years later, we have an unbelievable amount of talent,” Atherton said. “We have way more talent than we did back then. To see now that we haven’t been as successful as we have wanted to be with as many talented players I think isn’t great obviously, but we’re seriously right there. We’re right on the brink of the next level.”

Atherton officially made her mark on the record books this year, setting the record for shots in a career. She broke the previous record of 188 and currently has 196 and counting.

“I’m honored to be holding a record,” Atherton said. “Coming into a program, you want to make your mark and succeed in areas like that and be a record holder, but I think I’m not really going to remember breaking a record. What I’m going to remember is my teammates and all the other times surrounding that. I honestly wish my shots on goal was higher, but I’m happy to be held in high esteem with those in the record book.”

Atherton started in all but one game in the four years she’s been playing for Alabama. She’s clocked in a total of 6,288 minutes and scored 12 goals.

Between warming up with the players to “Fresh Off The Runway” by Rihanna before playing and talking to the coaches, Atherton said it’s her peers and coaches she’ll miss the most.

“I’ve grown so close to them over the past four years,” she said.

Junior Theresa Diederich met Atherton in high school when they played in the U.S. Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program together. Since then, Diederich and Atherton have remained best friends.

“Her legacy here is her leadership,” Diederich said. “She brings her hard work on and off the field. It’s going to be challenging for me to realize that she’s not going to be there, but it’ll be okay ‘cause I can still call and talk to her. As far as playing on the field, that’s something that’s not going to be replaceable with her energy and her work and skill.”

Bramble said Atherton’s passion and accountability is what makes her so much fun to watch and trust as a player.

“She trains really hard. She’s super competitive,” Bramble said. “She’s good at holding her teammates accountable, at reminding them to do their jobs in the game, on the field and in training, and that’s something we can count on her on a regular basis to do. All of that comes through her passion.”

Atherton only has a few more chances to close out her legacy as her senior season potentially comes to an end. With that, she hopes to finish out the final home game with a bang and hopefully go into the postseason once more.

“When I found out I could be a part of making history, I think I made it my mission and my goal to really bring a winning mentality to [the] team,” she said. “I try to go out there every single day and push my teammates to be the best that they can be and myself, and that correlates to the game field.

“It’s hard because we haven’t had all the success we’ve wanted, obviously, but I’ll always look back and remember that my class was able to lay the stepping stones to a very successful program.”


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