Meridian Star

August 4, 2013

Familiar foes join forces for promising year

Tony Tsoukalas
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN — Meridian Community College men's soccer coach Alex George knows recruiting classes like this year's don't come very often. Not only do the Eagles bring 11 talented freshman into the fold, but seven members of the class are from the Meridian area.

    Joining the Eagles will be a quintet of West Lauderdale players including Chris Mallette, Lyle Daugherty, Tyler Green, Quinton Smith and Tyler Germany. Meridian duo Miles Huff and Val Hartley also join the local squad. Additionally, freshman Evinn Watson grew up in Meridian before graduating from Hattiesburg High School in the spring, and fellow Hattiesburg freshman Kyle Roblin grew up playing his new Meridian teammates in travel leagues.

    “The combination of the five guys from (West Lauderdale) and the three or four guys from Meridian and the two guys from Hattiesburg –– I think it couldn't be more of a perfect storm,” George said.

    The familiarity has allowed the team to gel quicker in practice than most years, as the Eagles have formed a brotherly bond in early sessions this summer.

    “Chemistry wise, this team is probably in the top three among teams I've coached here at MCC,” George said. “They know each other, and they expect a lot out of each other. They hackle each other if they make a bad pass or a bad shot, and that's because they know each other and can hold each other to a higher accountability.”

    The added chemistry has even found its way into game situations, as the Eagles have found it easier to anticipate plays and set up each other on the pitch.

    “It's happened already in practice,” team captain Christian Jackson said. “We had a scrimmage the other day, and we were just clicking on all cylinders. We are coming together, and we put it together real well. Everybody has been looking up like we thought.”

    If the Eagles are able to create opportunities on offense, they certainly have the pieces to punish opposing teams this season. George said the team will look to rally behind a strong group of attackers and create a high-tempo playing style this season.

    “I feel like this team is going to be one of the best finishing teams I've had in 12 years,” MCC head coach Alex George said. “I've got players like Christian Jackson, Tyler Germany and Lyle Daugherty who are going to be playing the striker position for us.

    “I think we will put 11 on the field who will be a really attacking-minded team for us.”

    MCC will move back into the MACJC after finishing second in the Region 23 Tournament last season. The switch will allow for the Eagles to not only face in-state teams but also compete for a state championship –– something he and his players are excited about.

    “To be playing in the state is great,” George said. “A lot of the guys played against some of the competition in the high school level. They know them, and that brings an added competitiveness to the game.”

    Meridian appears to have the talent on its roster to match anyone in the MACJC, and George said he likes his team's chances heading into the season.

    “This is a year where both team could make it into that state-championship bracket,” George said. “Maybe we'll have a chance to win another one.”