Dawson County High School senior Anela Melton on Monday signed a soccer scholarship with Brenau University.
Melton, who has been playing soccer since she was four, is the Lady Tiger's goal keeper.
"This is an exciting time for us. I'm so proud of Anela and all of the hard work she has put in," said Dawson County High School girls' soccer coach Jed Lacey. "You can't make the run at state [championships] like we do without a good keeper."
Lacey said that Melton's hard work and determination has gotten her to where she is today.
"There's a lot of good keepers out there, but Anela is a beast in the goal," Lacey said. "She shows great leadership qualities and her ability has made us what we are today. She's broken every school record that we've ever had for a keeper."
Brenau's Director of Athletics and Head Soccer Coach Mike Lochstampfor said he was excited to have Melton on his team.
"When I asked my assistant to go out and find a quality goal keeper, she definitely filled that obligation, and Anela is going to step into some big shoes," he said. "We are graduating a really good goal keeper, but I know that Anela is up to the task and we are excited to have her for the next four years."
Melton's private coach, Gaucho Pinho, said he has watched her develop as a keeper since she was about 11 years old.
"It's been a pleasure working with Anela for the past seven or eight years. She was always at practice and dedicated to learning more," he said. "There's never been a day that she did not want to show up. She's a hard worker.
Melton's parents have nothing but support for their daughter.
"When Anela was young, she didn't play with dolls. She would sit on the floor and say ‘throw the ball mom,'" said her mother, Donna. "I would throw the ball a little more to the side each time and she would never miss it."
It's a skill her parents said they have helped their daughter foster ever since.
"I retired to take Anela to practices miles away each drive. She would do her homework in the car to make sure it got done, too," said her father Wayne. "I've seen her play against some of the best forwards in the United States and she would shut them down. That was when we knew she had a special gift."
As for Melton, she said she is just happy for the opportunity to keep playing.
"I'd just like to thank Brenau for the opportunity to play at such a great school," she said. "I'd also like to thank my parents for driving me all of those miles to practices. I would definitely not be where I am now if not for them."