Data processor: Senior Tanner Fiorani uses analytics to improve himself as a soccer player at West Forsyth

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 31, 2023

By Jay Spivey

Tanner Fiorani gravitated toward soccer at a young age, and now, he’s flourishing as a senior player for the West Forsyth boys soccer team.

He picked up his love of soccer while watching his older brother, Jordan, who played at West Forsyth and is now playing college soccer as a fifth-year senior at Roanoke College.

“Jordan played basketball, soccer, (and) other sports, but mine was mainly soccer,” Fiorani said. “In the summer, I would play soccer, some fall soccer, and then instead of playing something like basketball in the winter, I would just go play indoor soccer instead.”

Fiorani said he started playing soccer at about four or five years old.

“My dad signed me up (at Jerry Long YMCA), and I didn’t want to do it just because I was a young kid,” Fiorani said. “I enjoyed staying at home, just playing around. It was just the first time I’d ever been involved in sports.”

Initially, Fiorani didn’t think much of soccer.

“I didn’t think, I was like, ‘Oh, this is going to be a waste of time. I’m not really going to enjoy doing it,’” Fiorani said. “I just enjoyed playing around inside with my brother and sister (Emma, a student at Virginia Tech).”

Even at such a young age, Fiorani still wanted to be near his house.

“That was a bit of a change,” he said. “When I was younger, before I got into soccer, I was closer to my sister, I guess, because we were younger. But once I started getting actively involved in soccer and playing it, I moved closer to Jordan just because he, that was something we instantly had in common and something we could talk about.”

The bond that the brothers built through soccer grew as they did.

“As I got older, I’d say once the physical disparity wasn’t as big, it was more intense training or go out and play pick-up with him and his friends,” Fiorani said. “It was very chaotic (with TMCA soccer). It was fast-paced at the time, but looking back on it, it was very slow, uncontrolled, just more like just get your kid out and exercise to see which one he really likes.”

The love of soccer enveloped Fiorani as he continued to get older.

“That was probably one of the biggest things, like on my mind was playing soccer in school, just thinking about when I get out, I get to play soccer,” he said.

Fiorani kept improving in sports, but another big step happened when he was a freshman at West Forsyth. He already knew Coach Jeffrey Williams through Jordan, but this time, Williams was the head varsity coach.

“His thing is you don’t necessarily have to be the best player, but you have to be the best teammate you can be,” Fiorani said of Williams. “He wants you to set an example. And that’s the biggest thing he has is us seniors, you have to set an example for everyone else, like good people look up to you as a role model of the team.”

Even though Tanner played on the JV team his first two seasons, Williams was the go-to person.

“Honestly, it was bit disappointing,” he said. “You come in; you want to play (on varsity)…it was just a great thing for me because it was like, I was able to get lots and lots of minutes and played most of the game (at JV), game-in and game-out. So, it was very good. It got exposure to Coach Williams.”

Williams has recollections of Fiorani as a young player.

“He’s very knowledgeable,” Williams said. “He knew exactly what he wanted to do and what to do with the ball and off the ball. You can tell he’s a student of the game. He watches a lot of professional soccer, he understands tactics, and he’s quick-witted and a fast processor, which is why he makes a good midfielder. He can take in a lot of information, process it and counter that information.”

Since Williams coached both Jordan and Tanner, there’s always a comparison to be made for brothers.

“Very similar in their processing and their tactical understanding, (but) Jordan has been gifted with a lot more athleticism,” Williams said.

Part of the process turned out to be off-the-field for the Tanner. He had to wait his time before he joined the varsity team for the Titans last year.

“I would probably say the opposite as far as upsetting to be on JV for two years,” Williams said. “I think ultimately, everybody wants to make varsity, but everybody’s progression in life is as well as in their studies, as well as in their soccer abilities is all different.

“For Tanner, his mind was obviously ready for varsity, but physically he wasn’t.”

Going from JV to varsity is a big step, but Fiorani did that last year as a junior. He helped the Titans finish 10-10-4 overall and 9-5 in the Central Piedmont 4-A.

“You have to be able to prove yourself,” Fiorani said. “Some kids are able to prove themselves the first time in tryouts, some are able to prove themselves as freshmen. And some people, they don’t make it their junior year, but they work hard throughout, and they end up making it their senior year.”

As a center-midfielder, Fiorani said the Titans had high expectations last year.

“It’s West. We’ve always been able to be good,” he said. “That season, we started super slowly. We tied games we should’ve won (and) lost games we should’ve tied, but I think the biggest thing is (that) we stayed together as a team. That was really important to us. We pushed through.”

Through summer workouts, the first two weeks of practice in early August, and through nearly the first three weeks of the regular season, Tanner knew this was his senior season at West Forsyth.

“I just knew that it was now or never,” Tanner said. “I knew I really didn’t have any plans to play in college. So, this was my last year of playing for a school. And I just had to put in my all.”

As of Tuesday morning, West Forsyth is 2-0-1 with a game scheduled for Forbush. It also has a game scheduled for Thursday at Northwest Guilford before opening Central Piedmont 4-A play next Wednesday at home against Mount Tabor.

“If everybody improves as a unit and individually, it will be a pretty good outcome, barring injuries and all the other things,” Williams said.

The season just started, but Fiorani isn’t contemplating the end of his soccer career.

“I try not to think about it just because I feel like if I start thinking about it, it’s just going to be coming faster and faster,” he said. “I just want it to soak in each day at a time.”

As for college, Tanner is considering Virginia Tech, South Carolina and N.C. State. He wants to get into sports and data analytics.

“One, sports. I’ve loved sports my whole life,” he said. “And if I had to take something from school, that would be like the analytics and the math side of things. I don’t want to be like 80 percent of people that go into business. I want to make something and be myself.”