Dallas D’Feeters coaches Randy Shaw and Steve Davis had a short phrase they would break out during club soccer games.
“Him and I would just turn to each other and go ‘so smart,’” Shaw said. “Ninety-five percent of the time it would just be between the two of us on the sideline during a game and it would be because of something Ally (Jackson) did.”
Jackson is a junior center back on the Oklahoma State Soccer team. She is a cerebral player, essentially the quarterback of the Cowgirl defense, who reads the game and directs teammates like traffic. She accumulated her soccer IQ playing club ball in North Texas, although she was not always on the D’Feeters.
“I had the misfortune of coaching against (Jackson) for the first part of her young career,” Shaw said. “When you’re coaching at the highest level you notice the really talented players that are playing against your team and Ally certainly fit that bill.”
Jackson’s competitiveness was the first thing Shaw admired and what made coaching against her so difficult. It was only natural he started recruiting her to join the D’Feeters.
“Ally was a player that was at the top of my recruiting list every year,” Shaw said. “I don’t know if my persistence wore her down or maybe the level our team was ascending to on the national stage attracted her enough that she wanted to (join).”
Jackson joined the D’Feeters late in her high school career. The team was very good and already had an established starting lineup that housed several future college players.
“She could have easily been on the outside looking in as a sub coming off the bench or a role player, but she just wasn’t going to allow that to happen,” Shaw said.
Jackson adopted a team first mentality. Rather than asking her coaches what she needed to do to start she asked them what she needed to do for the team to win.
“She actually makes it impossible for you to not play her,” Shaw said.
Jackson was a top-100 recruit out of high school and had interest from several Power Five schools. Fittingly, it took her several visits to Stillwater before she decided to sign with OSU.
“The whole time I knew (OSU) was one of my top options but once I figured out I didn’t want to be too close to home but not really far it was the perfect fit,” Jackson said.
As the Cowgirls began conference play in Jackson’s freshman year, one of the OSU center backs hurt her ankle.
“I was playing midfield at the time, and (coach) Colin (Carmichael) asked me, ‘Have you ever played center back?’ and I was like, ‘Yeah, in high school’ so ever since then I stepped up and I did pretty well and now I’m here,” Jackson said.
She started every single game of her sophomore and junior campaigns and has become the glue that holds the Cowgirl back line together. Carmichael called her the organizer.
The nature of the center back position demands a player who can communicate with others and read the game. It is a true leadership position.
“(Jackson) kind of grew into that (leadership) role,” Carmichael said. “I’m not sure she necessarily wanted it…but I think she realized when you play center back in a three back system you got to talk, and you got to organize, and she does that really well.”
Jackson is like a pastor when she communicates, she is instructional and inspirational.
“Sometimes it's tactical things like, ‘Shift here, press now, I’m with you,’” OSU wing back Hannah Webb said, “Other times she’s just saying things to remind you she’s there, ‘Hannah, great pass or good job.’ The vocal aspect of her game has gotten really really good.”
Anyone can yell on the field, but Jackson yells with a purpose.
“She definitely is a leader back there,” OSU goalkeeper Amber Lockwood said. “She makes me feel extremely comfortable, just the support she has shown me throughout the year and just how consistent she is.”
Just as anyone can yell on the field, anyone can move the pieces around on a checkerboard. Only if the player has a strategy and can recognize things in the game before their opponent can, will those moves pay off.
“She just had a chess versus checkers mentality to the game that had a level of sophistication and maturity that a lot of her peers would probably envy,” Shaw said.