Jags goalie named Gatorade Player of Year

Spain Park’s Lauren Arnold became the second goalkeeper to ever be named Gatorade Player of the Year in Alabama when the award was announced Tuesday.

Arnold found out about the honor at Tuesday night’s sports banquet.

“I was so excited,” Arnold said. “Not a lot of juniors get it. I didn’t think I was going to get it this year. I was surprised.”

Arnold collected 11 shutouts this season to help lead Spain Park to the Class 6A girls’ soccer championship May 9. One of the games that helped set her apart from the rest of the players in the state was a 3-0 shutout of No. 2 Grissom in the state semifinal May 1. Arnold considers the win the closest thing she has had to a perfect game, as she collected eight saves, including two that she tipped over the crossbar.

“What helps her stand out above all of the other keepers is her ability to make the big saves,” Spain Park head coach Jonathan Weimer said. “She’s definitely a big part of the reason we are state champions.”

Arnold said defending the Jaguars’ goal this season was easy because of the defense she had to work with and called the team the best to ever go through Spain Park.

During the season, Arnold took a break in April to travel to Brazil to compete with the Region III Olympic Development Program Team for a week. She has been traveling internationally with the ODP since her freshman year when she went to Costa Rica.

“It’s a great experience going to different countries because I get to experience different cultures,” Arnold said.

This summer, Arnold said she will spend time training with the Birmingham United Soccer Academy boys’ academy team to gain experience defending stronger shots as she prepares for her senior year at Spain Park. A 2010 commitment for Clemson University, Arnold will attend the Clemson camp and a Region III event in Texas in July.

She is the second Spain Park girls’ soccer player to receive the honor as midfielder/forward Kathleen Walsh received the honor both in 2005 and 2006.

In the past 12 years, 10 of the Gatorade winners in Alabama have been from the Birmingham area, six of which have come from Shelby County schools.

Briarwood’s Lauren Whitt was the first to receive the honor in 1998, followed by fellow Lion Catherine Reddick in 1999 and 2000 and Briarwood’s Meredith Spink in 2002. Indian Springs forward Katherine Whitley received the honor in 2004.