Sanders elated after scoring first college goal
Clayton Sanders said scoring a goal during his first college soccer game with the Owls at The W on March 1 against Birmingham-Southern College was nothing other than shocking.
Although the Owls lost that night with a final score of 2-8, it was a victory for Sanders, a forward for the Owls, said Louis Alexander, Owls head coach.
“Since Clayton is a freshman and playing in a new position, it was awesome to see him score considering all the work he’s put into becoming a better player,” Alexander said. “Him scoring wasn’t a fluke. He earned it in the offseason.”
Due to delays from students quarantining, the Owls soccer season was cut down to only four games.
They played their first game on March 1 against Southern-Birmingham, and their second game, also against Southern Birmingham, on March 5.
Their third game was at 4 p.m. on Monday, March 29, against Andrew College of Cuthbert, Georgia.
Their fourth and final game, also against Andrew College, was at 4 p.m. on Thursday, April 1, at The W.
Alexander said it has been great coaching Sanders since he is easily coachable and works extremely hard.
“He’s a great team guy, and his teammates know they can count on him,” he said. “I have no doubt he has the potential to be one of the better players at this level if he continues with the path he is on.”
Sanders grew up in Neshoba and began playing soccer at the age of 6 when his parents, Zach and Windee Sanders, registered him to play at Northside Park. He said he has been playing ever since.
Sanders graduated from Neshoba Central High School with a list of soccer and academic achievements:
• Career 80 goals and 22 assists
• Career best junior year with 29 goals and 6 assists
• 5A District Champions in 2018 and 2019
• First team Region 3-5A, 2019
• All-Star MAC North Team, 2020
• Premier Preps Boys Soccer Team, 2019 and 2020
• Team caption, junior and senior year
• Most Valuable Offense Award in 2017-2018, 2018-2019
• Graduated with a 4.15 GPA
• Mississippi Scholar, Special Distinction
• National Honor Society and Beta Club
Sanders said he was shocked after scoring his first goal since college soccer is nothing like high school. He said his biggest inspiration to keep playing is his desire to be the best player on the field.
“The opponents are much tougher at this level, so just getting that goal gave me the confidence I needed to keep at this,” Sanders said.
Sanders said he plans is to keep playing with the Owls until finishing nursing school, and then he plans to hang up his cleats when he begins his nursing career.
His favorite part about playing soccer, he said, is working with his teammates, who he views as family. He said the most challenging aspect of being on the field is staying focused if things take a wrong turn in a game.
“You can lose focus if things don’t go your way during the game,” he said. “Every second, you’re thinking about a bad pass you made or a bad shot you took. Thinking about those things for even a second is a second that you’re not focusing on the game.”
Sanders’ mother said witnessing her son score his first college goal was incredible, and she is very proud of him, along with the rest of his family.
“The way COVID has affected his soccer season makes his goal so much more special,” Sanders said. “It shows that he’s still doing well despite the delayed and shorter season.”
Sanders said she and the rest of her family were there to watch her son’s first home game against Andrew College from Cuthbert, Georgia.