LAKEVILLE — Alaina Hill plays soccer terrified.
She means that sincerely.
Wheeler’s senior goalkeeper won’t even bother trying to hide her true emotions while standing between the pipes for the state’s top-ranked Class 1A girls soccer team. The undefeated and reigning state runners-up expect to win an IHSAA Championship. That means Hill can’t allow goals.
“It’s scary. It’s terrifying, honestly,” Hill said, describing her role. “I get sort of shake-y out there and even talking about it, but it’s the greatest thing ever.”
Hill concedes that she might sound strange saying that but adds it’s hard to properly explain. She tries her best anyway.
Hill is in the midst of the most critical part of her first and only season starting at goalkeeper for the Bearcats. Wheeler (20-0) scores goals at an alarming rate—having outscored opponents 138-11 through 20 games—and as a result tends to take eyes and pressure off its own defense.
That changes come IHSAA state tournament season. Hill’s job in late August and her job in the middle of October are two completely different things that seem foreign compared to one another.
“I love that part of it because toward the beginning of the year it’s like, yeah, I’m here and playing and want to do my part but don’t get much action,” Hill said. “The further and further we go, the more attention turns on me. That’s terrifying because I want to show my teammates that I’m here for them just like they always are for me.”
Hill spent her freshman season at Andrean but transferred to Wheeler before the start of her sophomore year. She was a backup then and couldn’t compete for the starting spot as a junior due to a concussion.
That set the table for this season to be her one chance as starter. Every experience is new thus far and Wheeler head coach Bryan Murray said Hill has passed every test.
“It’s one shot for her and she knows that, but she’s been very patient about it all,” Murray said. “She’s a focused individual and does a really nice job for us.”
The proof is in the results. Hill has 13 clean sheets to her credit and could have more if not for early exits from games like Saturday’s regional semifinal win against Lakeland Christian so that her backups could see more playing time.
While she’s not called on to make too many saves, Murray said Hill has a knack for coming through when the Bearcats need her.
“She’s got a really good read on shots,” he said. “She positions herself well and does a really nice job of keeping the defense organized. When it comes to having tough shots to face, our girls haven’t faced that too many times this year, but she’s been good when she’s had to face them.”
Hill takes pride in that. She said she’s been friends with most of her teammates since youth soccer days and doesn’t want to let them down. Also a member of the National Honor Society and Project Green environmental club, Hill said she doesn’t play any other sports so that she can focus her attention on her soccer duties.
Before each game, the Bearcats hold hands while the national anthem plays. They squeeze one another’s hands as hard as they can to hype each other up. It’s one of the little details of being a team that Hill said keeps the practices and stress worth it.
Given the choice, Hill elects to stay terrified. She’ll let herself relax Oct. 27 after the state championship.
“It sounds weird but I love my teammates so much and love doing what we do out there,” Hill said. “I don’t want it to stop.”