By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Gainesville's Tran thriving in goal
Gainesville goalkeeper Hong Tran catches a ball during a worm-up for a game Tuesday evening. - photo by Tom Reed
GAINESVILLE — The soccer drill started out as a joke, at least according to Gainesville girls soccer coach Mark Wade.

Then sophomore goalie Hong Tran was thinking too much, so Wade came up with a drill to attempt and take her mind off how to stop a shot in an effort to get her to simply react.

“You play like you practice,” Tran said. “And coach wanted to practice reaction drills so he asked me what 2 + 2 was and shot (the ball) at me while I answered.”

“It was meant to be a joke,” said Wade of the drill, “but she liked it so we’ve continued to do it.

“I want to make sure she doesn’t think about diving or how to make saves, and asking her random questions takes the thinking out of it. I was trying to get her to just be an athlete.”

Whether a joke or not, it’s worked.

In two seasons as starting goalie for Gainesville, Tran has amassed 188 saves and 14 shutouts in 28 games.

This season, she’s giving up a measly 0.5 goals per game and is riding a streak of four straight shutouts.

“She’s an all-around goalie,” Wade said. “She doesn’t have any weaknesses and if there’s something she struggles with, she’ll work until it’s fixed.”

Tran’s played soccer her entire life and considers it a way of life.

“I grew up with it,” she said. “It’s what my family did so I played.

“To me, soccer is something you live by.”

And her reasoning for that is simple: The game builds relationships.

“It’s a way of getting to meet new people,” Tran said. “I love the unity in it. The sport is about you giving everything for your team and your team giving everything they have for you.”

Growing up, Tran played every position and according to Wade, that served her well because to this day he’d be comfortable playing her anywhere on the pitch.

In middle school she began playing goalie fulltime and fell in love with the responsibilities of the position.

“I like the adrenaline rush,” she said. “Every feeling you get out there on the field is what makes me love not only this game, but the position I play.”

That includes frustration, as Hong found out in a game earlier this season.

“I probably got the most frustrated during the Chestatee game,” said Hong of her team’s 1-0 win March 24. “Seeing your team play slow when you know they’re capable of playing at a higher level is frustrating.

“My pet peeve is seeing teammates walk.”

Last year, Tran might not have been so outspoken about her frustrations, but maturity and confidence have helped her emerge as not only one of the team’s best, but as one of the team’s leaders.

“Last year was all new to her,” Wade said. “She’s learned how to handle herself and recognition, and because of it is more outspoken with her team.”

“I do see myself as a vocal leader,” Tran said. “But also, when the girls need something, I’m there for them.”
Wade, for one, is happy about that.

At the end of last season, Gainesville graduated its back four defenders, but because of Tran, Wade didn’t worry all that much about it.

“I knew she’d be solid,” Wade said. “She gave us time to grow the back four and it was great knowing I had someone who could erase whatever mistakes were made.”

Case in point, last week’s game against Flowery Branch in which Tran stopped eight shots in the second period and two penalty kicks to give her team a win.

“That game was mentally exhausting,” Tran said. “Those girls drilled us in the second half but we didn’t lose our composure.

“That game was something else and to be honest, the end felt like we had just won a state final.”

It was a direct result of Tran’s work ethic that the win was possible. In a 2-1 loss March 9, Lambert scored three penalty kicks to
Gainesville’s two to get the win. Following the loss, Tran decided it was time to work on stopping PKs.

“She’s very inquisitive,” Wade said. “When she faces a situation and doesn’t feel she handled it right, she’ll ask and work so that the bad doesn’t keep happening.”

“It felt good after the win against Flowery Branch to know that practice paid off,” Tran said. “I knew I could’ve done better in the Lambert game and it bothered me that I didn’t.”

Having a last line of defense who takes offense to mistakes, has a credible work ethic and is a team leader doesn’t bother Wade in the least.

“I’m just glad she’s only a junior,” he said with a laugh.
Regional events