Tiffany Walker experienced the pinnacle of competition as a player, leading her Lee University team to the 2008 NAIA national championship as a senior.
The hope at Florence High is that Walker can lead the Falcon girls soccer program to new heights as a coach.
Walker was hired this week to replace Terri Paul as Florence girls soccer head coach, the latest in a busy offseason of coaching changes at Florence.
Walker has worked at Florence Middle School for six years. She teaches seventh grade math and coached the soccer program until a couple years ago, so she’s either taught or coached many of the high school team’s current players.
“With the group of girls and parents we have, I know there is incredible potential for the program,” Walker said.
Walker played high school and club soccer in Texas before going to Lee, where she could play as a midfielder or forward. She coached club soccer in Indiana and Tennessee.
She was a varsity head coach at Bradley Central in Tennessee until her husband, Chris Walker, became head coach of the North Alabama women’s soccer team.
Walker said the girls soccer team is quite young at the moment.
“I’ve watched them as a spectator and as a fan but I haven’t had a chance to work with them on the coaching side of things,” she said.
Walker said she’s seen a handful of 7A teams Florence plays as they’ve either appeared at UNA team camps or been part of games Chris attended as he recruited.
“I feel like I have a pretty good gauge of it,” she said of the competition.
Florence athletic director Byron Graham said six people applied for the job and Walker was a unanimous choice based on her playing career, interview and coaching experience.
"She’s been a head coach before herself, which is also good,” Graham said. “She was very impressive when she was working with our middle school.”
Graham thanked Paul for building Florence into a competitive program and a playoff contender. The Falcons made the state tournament as recently as 2018.
“Coach Paul did a heck of a job for us,” Graham said.
He hopes Florence can develop a program-wide philosophy starting at the middle school level and eventually take the high school team deeper into the postseason.
Earlier this year, Florence hired new head coaches for girls basketball (Will Copeland), baseball (J.R. Myers) and softball (John Smith), and Graham said those three and Walker are “quality coaches that fit the needs of our athletic program.”
Walker doesn’t anticipate any other staff changes for soccer, and she’s excited to get started.
“Soccer’s just a passion of mine," she said.
Brooks’ Villalta commits to UAH
One of the leading figures of Brooks baseball’s Class 4A state championship team this past spring has made his college decision.
Carson Villalta, a rising senior who plays shortstop and pitches, committed this week to UAH.
He chose the Chargers over UNA and a couple schools at the Division III or JUCO level. One of the reasons was the school’s engineering program, which he said he might be interested in joining.
“I really, really liked the campus. It’s a very beautiful area,” he said.
Villalta plays shortstop and pitches for Brooks, though it’s likely he’ll concentrate on being a hitter and infielder.
“I think it would be better for me, and UAH does, too,” he said.
Villalta was named the TimesDaily’s Class 4A-7A hitter of the year this past spring. He says he wants to add more power to the opposite field and continue improving defensively.
He said he stayed after practice with second baseman Brett Urban frequently this spring, and at the end of the year he had made five or six fewer errors.
“I definitely for sure think I’ve grown sophomore year to junior year,” Villalta said.
Villalta plays travel baseball with the Triton Rays, and despite graduations for a few key players he thinks Brooks can make another long playoff run.
“I hope nobody’s surprised by that,” he said.
Local minor league update
• Thomas Burrows: The Mars Hill grad returned to Triple-A Gwinnett after eight strong outings in Double-A and has made two appearances since his call-up. He threw 1 2/3 scoreless innings each time, allowing a total of three walks and one hit and striking out six. He is in the Atlanta Braves organization.
• Brax Garrett: The Florence grad had his best outing of the season June 25, throwing seven shutout innings with one hit, one walk and 11 strikeouts to earn the win as the Jupiter Hammerheads beat the Bradenton Marauders. He took a tough-luck loss to Bradenton a week later after allowing two earned runs over 5 2/3 innings. Jupiter is the Advanced-A affiliate of the Miami Marlins.
• Ryan Weathers: The Loretto grad threw four shutout innings for the Single-A Fort Wayne TinCaps against the South Bend Cubs on June 27. He has taken losses in each of his first two July starts, allowing two earned runs in 4 2/3 innings against Lake County and two earned runs in five innings against Burlington. His strikeout-to-walk ratio remains better than four to one, however, with 56 strikeouts on the year to 13 walks.