Following Goshen News article written by Austin Hough (photos by Ben Mikesell).
GOSHEN — Alann Torres was faced with a tough decision this summer.
He had two options: play soccer for the Indiana Fire Academy, or play high school soccer. Since the Academy plays year-round, Torres had to choose one or the other.
Torres chose the latter.
The freshman is playing for Bethany Christian High School this year as opposed to the Academy, which is the highest level of soccer you can play in the state.
For Torres, the decision was about more than just soccer.
“I chose high school because of my grades. It would help me out more and push myself more if I was playing here,” Torres said. “If you don’t have good grades, you won’t be able to play. So, I made the decision and I’m liking it so far.”
Having good grades is something his coach, Hank Willems, stressed to the young Torres.
“I wasn’t trying to talk him out of the Academy as much as I was trying to stress to Alann how important it is to get off to a good educational start in high school,” Willems, who is also the principal at Bethany Christian, said. “Soccer is going to take care of itself for Alann.”
Playing soccer has been apart of Torres entire life. He started liking the sport when he was four years old, and started playing competitively for the Middlebury Magic when he was 10. Pretty soon after, coaches started realizing the talent level Torres had.
“I started realizing I was good when coaches started telling me I was good, I guess. I was around 11 years old,” Torres said.
One of those coaches was Willems. His son, Beck, is the same age as Torres and has played soccer with him throughout his childhood. Hank Willems noticed Torres the first time when the two played on the same team with the Magic.
Torres continued to excel in various clubs around the state, including the Academy.
“He’s already playing up an age group at the Academy. He went down there, already made an impact on his age group, then moved up an age group,” Willems said. “They will take him at any point.”
The Academy will wait for now, though, as Torres focuses on getting good grades in school. He knows that if he wants to play soccer at the collegiate level, taking care of school is equally important as developing as a soccer player.
“Coach Willems was a big influence talking about college. Talking about how they look at your grades a lot. He’s always been pushing me,” Torres said.
Knowing that importance, Torres enforced some rules on himself to make sure his grades don’t dip too low.
“If I have good grades, I’m able to go out and stuff. That wasn’t my parent’s decision, that was mine. That way I can maintain my good grades,” Torres said.
While coach Willems has been a major influence for Torres, another person who was in a similar position as Torres is also helping out the freshman.
Femi Hollinger-Janzen was a superstar for the Bruins from 2008-2012. He was the 2011 Indiana Gatorade Player of the Year, tallying 67 goals across his four seasons at Bethany Christian. He played college soccer at the University of Indiana before being drafted by the New England Revolution in the third round of the 2016 MLS SuperDraft.
Hollinger-Janzen struggled with academics his first year at Bethany Christian. He knows how hard it is to recover from a poor start in school, so he’s emphasizing academics to Torres more than anything.
“Most young kids think you can just play sports for your entire life and make money. There’s a lot more to it to that, and school is probably the number one factor in all of that,” Hollinger-Janzen said. “Get the good grades, because it’s very important. Without them, I wouldn’t have even had the opportunity to go play soccer.”
“He actually didn’t do that well his freshman year, and that was the first thing he actually told me,” Torres added. “Out of all the things he’s mentioned, he mentions school the most.”
The current MLS player also hasn’t been short on soccer advice, too.
“He’s given me advice and drills I could do to get stronger, get my feet quicker, and be a smarter player,” Torres said.
Having Torres adds another dynamic to the Bethany Christian team. In his first two games with the team, the Bruins have scored nine goals. Torres missed the first three games due to not having enough practice time to be eligible to play.
“Alann’s biggest strength is making all the players around him better. He himself can score. He only has one assist in the past two games, but if you look at how the ball got into position to where the assist was made…he has his hand in every play,” Willems said.
One of the payers benefiting from Torres on the field is senior Cedric Brenneman. The team captain has 10 goals in the first five games of the season and is hoping to score more now with Torres on the field.
“It’s been really nice to have him because it takes a lot of pressure off me as far as controlling the flow of play,” Brenneman said. “He just brings a confidence, he’s used to playing against a high level of competition. That’s helped a lot with our younger guys.”
Bethany Christian advanced to the regional final a season ago. While they’re only five games into the 2018 campaign, Torres has high hopes for what this Bruins team can do.
“I honestly think we can win state with this team that we have this year. Knowing our abilities, I know that we can take it,” Torres said.
It was more than a soccer decision for Alann Torres. He believes this is the right move for his future.
“It took a while for me to make my decision, but I honestly feel like there’s more opportunities for me to go to a bigger college playing with coach Hank as opposed to with an academy,” Torres said.