ALMA -- Teagan Thrasher is hard to guard. She's quicker than you think, too.
Just ask the Farmington sweeper who was casually gliding back to protect her keeper a few weeks ago when Thrasher shot past her in a flash and, in one fluid motion, kicked the ball toward the net that swooped over the Cardinals' goalie for a clinching goal in the 68th minute of Alma's 3-0 victory.
"When she first came out, we looked at her and were like, 'She looks like any other kid. She's not very big, and she doesn't have a lot of size.' But when we got her into a couple of summer games, she showed us some flashes of what she can do," Alma soccer coach Cory Sturdivant said. "She's definitely surpassed what we were expecting this season."
Sturdivant has run the gamut of talented soccer players. He's part coach, part salesman and part father figure when it comes to getting kids involved in athletics.
"When I was in Hot Springs, I kept trying to recruit one of our [soccer] kids to be our [football] kicker. I begged [Erick Guadron] for two years," Sturdivant said. "Then the first game, there's 4,000 people in the stands for the Lakeside game, and he puts the opening kickoff through the back of the end zone. I knew we had him then."
Then there's the peculiar case of Teagan Thrasher.
To say she wasn't on the radar two months ago wouldn't be an understatement -- nor would it be too far-fetched to now project her as potentially one of the best scorers in Alma's short history.
"Some people are black and white ... I'm a lot of different shades of gray," Sturdivant said. "If we can make it work for the kid, we'll do all we can. She's in a unique situation. She was having to work a lot; we weren't even sure she was going to get to play."
Thrasher met with school counselors to help balance her schedule, allowing her to leave early for Fort Smith, where she works at Raising Cane's restaurant, and to make up some of the credits she lacked when she first enrolled at Alma in March of 2022.
"I used to work a lot more hours," she said. "I changed my hours so I can go to practice, so now I work from 5 to midnight sometimes. I worked at Raising Cane's in Texas, too."
As for her soccer skills? There's no denying her potential. Thrasher scored seven goals in the team's first four games, including a school-record four goals in the team's 8-0 shutout of Heavener, Okla.
The first-year Lady Airedale soccer player moved to Arkansas from Kingwood, Texas, a north Houston-area suburb, after her dad, Tom, took a job at ArcBest. In the last five years, the Thrashers have lived in Madison, Miss.; Kingwood, Texas; Dallas; and now Alma.
"My dad's job works through ArcBest; he gets offers sometimes," Thrasher said. "I went to a STEM school [Dallas] that didn't have any sports, and then I was online because of covid."
Thrasher grew up in Madison, Miss., a city north of Jackson that was once a stagecoach stop along the famous Natchez Trace.
"We lived there until I was 12," Thrasher said.
It was here, she said, where she honed her soccer kills.
Between fitting in, having to make up so many credits, and refamiliarizing herself with soccer, Thrasher admitted to being a little overwhelmed.
"It was tough [moving], plus it was a new school," Thrasher said.
In March of 2022, as Thrasher was settling in, she befriended Austin Sorrells in P.E., who suggested she try out for the soccer team.
A year later, things worked out nicely.
"I think it was a little tough at first, just because I'm brand new, and this is my first time playing soccer since the sixth grade," Thrasher said. "[But] it's really nice to be a part of a team. They're very supportive and treat each other right."
Back in 2020, Sturdivant and the Lady Airedales were on the threshold of something special. On March 10, 2020, the Lady Airedales shut out Vilonia, 4-0, to run their 5A-West record to 2-0 and overall mark to 5-1.
Then covid-19 brought everything to a screeching halt. A year later, Alma struggled to an 0-15-1 finish -- a season that saw the team score just four goals.
Last year, Alma finished 4-12-4 and managed 22 goals for the entire season. It didn't score its 21st goal until April 27.
To win four straight games -- a feat not even the 2020 team accomplished before the shutdown -- is remarkable.
"It means so much, especially since we've lost so many games the past [two] years," senior Presli Taylor said. "It reminds me a little of 2020. I'm excited to see what [this season] has to offer."
Thrasher and Taylor have combined for 13 of the Lady Airedales' 21 goals this season. Strong-legged Liv Reed has four goals.
Four others -- Marti Lineberry, Yoesline Gonzalez, Lexi Julian and Abbi Cater -- have scored this season as well.
"It's really good to have somebody that we can stick in the middle, so that way we can have everybody else at the position they're better at," Taylor said. "Having her [Thrasher] in the middle makes it better for everybody else to be a role player."
Thrasher admits to being surprised with her start.
"Honestly, yes, but I think it's because of the team support," she said. "They're very supportive."