Roberts praise MHS soccer teams for hard work, dedication despite early cancellation of 2020 season

Malvern soccer head coach Seth Roberts applauds hard work ethic from the sideline for Malvern during home game competition during the 2020 season at Claude Mann Stadium.Senior Lady Leopard Kelsey Dingler battles for possession offensively for Malvern during home soccer action for the 2020 season.Senior Leopard Zane Stuckey challenges his opponent defensively during a home game of the 2020 soccer season.
Gerren Smith
Staff Writer

It has been an unusual and unexpected year for high school spring sports 2020. Malvern High School soccer head coach Seth Roberts anticipated a challenging year with two talented Leopards and Lady Leopards senior high boys and girls teams.
Malvern was fortunate to play three games this year, but the outbreak of the coronavirus forced the Arkansas Activities Association to suspend all spring sports seasons. Roberts including assistant coach Austin Warford and volunteer coach Lauriono Jiminez remained positive and hopeful the soccer season would resume— but unfortunately the AAA eventually canceled the entire spring sports seasons for 2020.
The Leopards and Lady Leopards faced three tough opponents to kickoff the season. Roberts thought both Malvern soccer teams battled hard in all three competitions. Despite falling short of victory, Roberts knew the experience of facing tough opponents would help Malvern compete productively in the 4A South Conference.
“We played two really good private schools and a quality conference opponent in our three games. I was excited to see how the team was shaping up and will always wonder what would have happened if they would’ve had a chance to play their whole season,” Roberts said.
In each 80 minute contest this season, the Leopards and Lady Leopards challenged their opponents with fierce intensity and aggression. Despite a very short season, Roberts appreciated how hard each of his soccer teams competed and progressed. He observed strong play throughout each matchup and each team provided toughness to force all opponents to raise their level of performance, he said.
“We started off the year playing the defending 3A girls and boys state champions CAC. We played a great game and pushed a really good team to their edge. We then played Arkadelphia, girls gave up a late goal to lose a heartbreaker 2-1 and boys were in a tight game and then suffered some key injuries in the second half.”
Roberts added, “I think the game would’ve been completely different had we played in the rain and on grass for the first time against a really good Episcopal collegiate team. The conditions were tough but we never gave up.”
By the effort and work ethic both Malvern soccer teams provided during practice, Roberts felt they would be ready to finish strong in the conference.
“We had two very hard working teams this year. They brought intensity into practice and helped each other to get better everyday. We purposely scheduled a hard non-conference schedule so that we would be ready for a tough conference season,” Roberts said.
This season, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a heartbreaking situation for all student-athletes who participated in spring sports. Although this experience canceled a year of exciting duels on the soccer field, Roberts commended how understanding his players had handled the situation.
“I am extremely proud of how hard they worked and how great their attitudes were about this whole life changing event. It shows the quality of players and people we have in our program, Roberts said.
This definitely has been a sad time for all seniors. Roberts understands how devastating it has been for the seniors to end their high school athletic careers.
“My heart obviously hurts for the seniors but it does for all the other players too. I can’t imagine having a whole season of your high school career taken away. At most you only get four,” he said.
Roberts is hopeful spring sports seasons will return for 2021. He plans to have several of his underclassmen back for next season and believes they will be extremely motivated to compete for a successful year.
“As far as the future and next season, I just really hope we are able to get back and play. So I hope they get a chance to play—I know my players and they have had such great attitudes, they will be more ready to play next year than ever,” Roberts said.