The Meridian Star
After a heart breaking loss to Pearl River in the 2012 Region 23 title game, the Meridian Community College women's soccer team coming back this season ready to make a deeper run.
The Eagles are returning seven players and have a strong incoming class, highlighted by two local stars. The team of 17 carries a heavy offensive side head coach Mike Smith said will propel them throughout the season.
“I really, really like my group,” Smith said. “They are really working hard. I think they know they have a good team so they are really focused.
“They think they can make a run at a state championship.”
After just three days of full practices, Smith likes what he is seeing. He said his team is putting in the work needed to do what they want this season. The Eagles are hoping for a better season that last year, with a deeper postseason run.
“I think we're going to score some goals,” Smith said. “We got an offense … I think our offense is a tad bit stronger than our defense, but by no means is our defense weak.”
The offense will be powered by returning sophomores Miller Watkins, Merrick Watkins, Taylor Hanes, and Kristin Morris. Last season, Morris netted 16 goals for the Eagles and Hanes has picked up her pace which Smith hopes will result in goals scored.
From the freshman class, Smith is excited to have grabbed two local high school stars in Meme Huff from Meridian High School and Kayla Phillips from Clarkdale High School.
“They are two of the better players that have come out of this area for a while,” he said. “I coached them growing up, so I had a good relationship with them, so they came here and they are going to help.”
But with under three weeks left, Smith is left with a question mark in net behind his defense. The battle is between last year's starter, Haley Hegwood, who is currently sidelined with an injury and Kaitlin Polk, who has picked up the most preseason practice time.
“It's 50/50 right now because Polk is doing well,” Smith said.
Working with the team to get to the state playoff, will be that they've moved into the MACJC from being an independent team. Smith said he likes the grind of a conference format.
“[The move] has it's pros and cons,” he said. “The whole year, trying to scratch and claw to make the playoffs … it's going to be tough.”
MCC finished the 2012 season at 12-5-1. The loss to Pearl River strengthen a rivalry as the Eagles joined the South MACJC division, giving them two chances for redemption before the end of the regular season.
“Oh yeah, we're ready,” sophomore Kristin Morris said. “We have to raise the standard because of it ... We have to work harder and play 100 percent every time we play.”
The Wildcats and Eagles were scoreless into the second half, but Pearly River struck once and MCC couldn't force overtime.
“We had a good team, just unlucky,” Smith said. “It was a pretty even match. I think Pearl River was just a little bit better than us.
Morris, a team captain, said the loss helped fuel the desire for harder preseason workouts, which Smith has happily obliged to.
“Everyone's already walking around sore,” Morris said. “We went in[to the Region 23 title game] a little unfit and that's something the captains wanted to correct this year … We just let our fitness get the best of us and it tore us apart and they scored.”