Westover's Daughety chooses soccer over running, heads to Tennessee Temple

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

ALBANY -- When Westover cross country and track coach Harley Calhoun first lay eyes on Sachi Daughety as a freshman, he had a feeling she might just have what it took to revive his girls long-distance running programs and run her way right into the school's record books.

He was right about both.

So that's why it was a little strange for Calhoun to watch Daughety, who owns the 10th-fastest cross-country time in school history and helped lead the Lady Pats to four straight region titles, sign a scholarship to play soccer -- not run -- at the next level at Westover High on Tuesday with Tennessee Temple University in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Strange, of course, in a good way.

"She's one of the girls who helped re-establish our cross-country program and she was a very, very good runner for us for four years," said Calhoun, who is also the school's athletic director. "But she told me around Christmas that she didn't want to run anymore (as track season approached) because she couldn't see herself doing it at the next level. I said, 'OK, that's fine. But what do you want to do?' And she said, 'I want to play soccer.' "

Then she made it happen.

Daughety and two Westover teammates attended a tryout recently at Tennessee Temple, where head coach Kenrick Liburd, a native of London and former soccer star himself, liked what he saw.

How much? Well, Daughety's commitment to the program compelled Liburd and Temple assistant coach Emmanuel Awotula to schedule an early-morning practice Tuesday for 6 a.m. with their team, then get in a car and drive five hours from Chattanooga to Albany -- just to attend Daughety's signing.

"Everyone at the school is so nice, and so friendly and I'm really excited to know I'll be playing soccer in college," said Daughety, who has been a member of the soccer team since she was a freshman, helping lead them to a region title last season and No. 1 seed in state. "Running was fun and I loved it, but it's an individual sport sometimes, and I really wanted to be part of a team and do a team sport in college. I definitely think it was a good decision."

Daughety's dad, John -- Westover's girls soccer coach -- wouldn't disagree.

"She just really had a good feel for the girls on the team, the coaches and the school -- and so did I," said John Daughety, a former U.S. Marine who was the Lady Pats coach two years ago, then he left for a tour of duty in Afghanistan with the National Guard, only to return this season just in time to coach his daughter during her senior year.

"After our game on Tuesday against Worth County, the Temple coaches -- who stuck around to watch the game -- and Sachi and I ended up talking in the parking lot for a couple of hours. They really have a lot of character and seem to care about their (student-athletes), and they think Sachi can come be a leader on their team the same way she was on ours. They like her toughness."

Sachi is one of Westover's captains and is coming off a season in which she led the team in assists. She's currently the assist leader this year with four, and has scored one goal -- a goal that proved to be the game winner in a victory earlier this season against Worth.

"She can play pretty much any position on the field," John said.

But just getting to the point of Tuesday's signing was something Sachi said she was most proud of. After all, a back injury sidelined her for most of her senior cross country season in the fall, and she was hoping she'd be healed in time for soccer season.

"After I got hurt, I wanted to get back and start playing soccer as soon as I felt better because it's something I've done my whole life and I just really enjoy it," she said. "I didn't start running until my eighth-grade year at Lee County Middle School, but soccer's something I've done since I was, like, 5. My goal is to one day play in the World Cup."

And if she makes it, Calhoun and Dad will likely be right there on the sideline cheering her on -- Calhoun taking credit for her running technique, and Dad patting himself on the back for her soccer skills.

"It doesn't matter what sport she does, she'll be successful. She's a darn's good athlete," Calhoun said. "I watched that game against Worth County (on Tuesday) night and they came back from 3-0 to tie it, force two overtimes, then penalty kicks, before they unfortunately lost. And when they lose, she takes it hard. Because not only does she want to win, but she wants to get these younger kids used to winning so she can pass on what Westover soccer is all about."