Home Local Sports ‘It’s about teamwork’: Hubbard, Methodist win conference title

‘It’s about teamwork’: Hubbard, Methodist win conference title

Tatum Hubbard (right) poses with the regular-season championship trophy with her senior teammates. (Contributed photo by Methodist University Athletics)

FAYETTEVILLE — No matter the number of setbacks she faced, Tatum Hubbard remained resilient in her role as a member of the Methodist University women’s soccer team the past four years.

To close her collegiate soccer career, Hubbard, a defender, and the Monarchs won the USA South Conference regular-season title and conference championship tournament earlier this month, while also punching a ticket to the Division III playoffs.

A 2019 graduate from Richmond Senior High School, the successful run during Hubbard’s senior year was the icing on the cake of what she called a “rollercoaster” career.

During the spring of 2019, Hubbard tore her right ACL in Richmond’s fourth game of the season against Jack Britt High School. Already committed to Methodist, Hubbard started a four-year journey that was filled with a lot of patience and refreshed love for the sport.

“It was a long time coming,” Hubbard said of winning the conference. “It’s a door we’ve been beating on since my sophomore year. We’ve gotten close and the semifinal round was our biggest game this year that finally opened that door for us.

“The conference championship is a feeling I’ll always remember,” she added. “It was great to accomplish that as a team because we’ve all worked so hard for four years. We finally got what we’ve been working for.”

Redshirting her freshman year, Hubbard worked on rehabbing her knee and regaining her strength and size with assistant athletic trainer Jordan Bettleyon. In February 2020, she was cleared to return and participated in two spring practices — and then COVID-19 hit.

Hubbard’s sophomore season was pushed until the following spring, as she continued to adjust to her injury. That year, she continued getting back to form and was able to play in one match against Averett University, a 3-0 win.

“During my junior year, I still had some pain in my knee,” Hubbard explained. “I was still learning how to adjust to the pain and knowing the difference between the discomfort and there actually being something wrong. 

“I stopped wearing my brace halfway through that season, and it gave me more mobility. I wore a compression wrap instead, and I was able to play in the last regular-season game against Averett.” 

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An offseason concussion stalled Hubbard’s participation to start her senior season earlier this fall, and an extended recovery time limited her to just two appearances. 

She started on senior night against N.C. Wesleyan and picked up some minutes in the first round of the conference tournament against Salem College, both of which were victories.

“I worked back to be able to play on senior night,” Hubbard shared. “It was a huge relief to get back on the field because I had a lot of anxiety because I wasn’t the player I used to be. But I’m grateful for being able to play again. 

“Even though I didn’t get as much playing time as I thought I would in my four years, I still got a lot of practice time. Some players aren’t able to come back from an ACL injury, so anything I was able to accomplish, I’m thankful for.”

Methodist finished the season with a 16-3-1 overall record and went an undefeated 9-0 in conference play. Carrying a 14-match winning streak into the D-III playoffs, the Monarchs suffered a 5-1 loss to Rowan University.

One of her biggest takeaways during her time at Methodist, Hubbard said, was embracing whatever role she needed to in order to help the team.

“I’ve learned a lot of patience during my time here,” she explained. “At Richmond it was all about being on the field as a four-year starter. But I’ve learned it’s not all about that. It’s about teamwork and that feeling of togetherness as a team.

“What I tried to do was contribute whatever I could to the team, and for me that was mostly on the sideline. I did my part as a teammate and was positive and encouraging. I gave everything I had to give and was ready when my name was called.”

Majoring in kinesiology, Hubbard is also working on a minor in psycho-social aspects of sports and coaching. She’s currently applying to graduate schools with the goal of getting a master’s degree in athletic training.

“I may not be an athlete anymore, but I want to continue working with them,” Hubbard closed. “I’m in a work study now and will be interning with Jordan (Bettleyon) with the baseball team in the spring.”

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Kyle Pillar is a nine-time North Carolina Press Association award-winning sports editor with The Richmond Observer. Follow the sports department on Twitter @ROSports_ for the best in-depth coverage of Richmond County sports.