By Chad Dixon
Sometimes it takes an elite player to elevate a program and set a new standard. For Smiths Station soccer, goal keeper Tripp Vining was that player.
Vining led the Panthers to their first area title in 2018 and helped the team advance to the state tournament’s quarterfinals. The team finished with a 13-5-3 record with a Top 10 ranking and was undefeated in area games. On May 21, he received First Team Class 7A All-State honors.
“Tripp is probably the best goal keeper to come out of the Smiths Station Boys Soccer program since its inception,” said Smiths Station Boys Soccer Coach Jeff Carrero.
Vining was called to play for the varsity team in the second week of his freshman year. Carrero feels Vining was the type of player that made his teammates better.
“Tripp has given the players on the field the peace of mind and confidence to play hard and if they made a mistake on the field, Tripp would have a good chance of making a play on the ball and denying the opponent a goal. Tripp always gave his team a chance to be in the game,” Carrero added.
In his senior season, Vining averaged 9.57 saves per game and stopped 7-of-11 penalty kicks. He had two assists on the season. He was named to the Club BUSA Regional Premier and Elite Club teams. He had a total of 210 saves in his senior season (1.31 per game).
“Representing SSHS soccer on the All-State first team this year is a great honor. It really shows me that my hard work was recognized and I am excited that I was chosen.
“My teammates play an important role in this award because without a strong defense, solid midfielders and forwards who take advantage of scoring opportunities our game results and stats would look very different,” Vining said.
Carrero credits Vining’s intense work ethic to his successes.
“His work ethic away from Smiths Station has been great! He played travel ball during the fall and went to numerous camps during the summer and winter breaks to improve.
“Tripp has set the standard for goal keepers at Smiths Station and this area. I know many opposing coaches are glad to see him moving on to the next level,” Carrero said.
Vining takes pride in being a part of the first team to win an area title for Smiths Station Boys’ Soccer.
“The highlight of my soccer career at Smiths Station was this year when we beat Auburn High School at their stadium in a shootout after double overtime followed up by my earning a shutout in goal the second time we played them this season.
“This all led up to our sweeping the 7A area soccer and winning the title of area champs for the first time in our soccer program history,” Vining added.
Vining also was the starting punter for the football team for the past three seasons. He kicked seven punts for over 60 yards this past fall.
“He worked hard in the weight room to improve his leg strength and had a break out senior season. He flipped the field for us so many times. Tripp is a hard worker on the field and in the classroom,” said former Panthers’ football coach Adam Fossett.
Vining’s determination and school pride kept him going through a tough senior season in football as team was going through a rebuilding period.
“We have had ups and downs over the last couple of seasons in football and in soccer.
“It is easy to work hard, make sacrifices and love your sport when you are dominating the game, but when you are ‘down’ there is a big lesson to be learned in finding out what you and your teammates are made of in how you handle overcoming a bad season.
“I would have to say that the biggest lesson I learned at Smiths Station is Panther Pride!
“After all home football games the players walk over to our student section, the Jungle, to join in with everyone arm in arm and sing the Smiths Station Alma Mater.
“Our friends didn’t give up on us and leave the game early just because of the score,” said Vining.
Vining will be attending the Emmanuel College in Franklin Springs, Ga., to further his education. He plans on majoring in Sports Management.
He hopes to one day play at the highest level of soccer, but for now he is just focused on college.
“Right now my goal is to adapt to the college life ahead of me and I hope to be a difference maker on the college soccer field.
“After college, who knows for sure, but Major League Soccer would be awesome!”