Meridian Star

September 18, 2013

MCC’s Phillips leading the nation in assists

Tony Tsoukalas
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     Meridian Community College freshman Kayla Phillips might not have X-Ray vision, but her ability to see through opposing defenses has been nothing less than heroic for the Eagles this season.

    The former Clarkdale High School midfielder leads the NJCAA with 12 assists through her first seven games, leaving her only one assist away from the single-season record at MCC with 10 regular-season games to play.

    “She's so good at finding these little windows to play the ball through,” MCC head coach Mike Smith said. “That's the reason I wanted her out of high school. I saw what kind of player she was and what she could do with the ball.”

    While the stats and potential records are flattering, the only numbers Phillips cares about are those in the win-loss column where the Eagles sit atop the MACJC standings at 7-0 (3-0) on the season.

    “I just look at it as numbers on a screen” Phillips said of leading the nation in assists. “I just need to play my game. I know I have to make good passes so MeMe (Huff) or Kristen (Morris) or Taylor (Hanes) can score.”

    Coming into college, Phillips decided to alter her game, focusing less on scoring goals and more on creating opportunities for her teammates. The plan has payed off so far, especially with the emergence of former Meridian High School star MeMe Huff, who leads the state in goals with 15. More than half of Huff's goals this season have come off assists from Phillips.

    “I knew coming in, with me and MeMe (Huff) on the same team, she's way better at shooting than I am,” Phillips said. “So, I just look at it as if I can get her the ball, she'll score and we can win.”

    Despite growing up so close to each other, this season is the first time the duo has played together on the same team. Phillips said she is glad to finally play along side her friend after several years competing against her. Phillips and Huff are two of nine players from Lauderdale County on the Eagles' 16-person roster. Phillips said the flux of local talent has only added to the Eagles' already strong team unity.

     “I think we all have a lot of pride in this team because over half this team is from Meridian,” she said. “So, we are representing where we are actually from.”

    Coming into tonight's game against Jones County Junior College, this year's squad is already being considered as one of the best in school history. Smith said although there are still hurdles to overcome, this is the best team MCC has fielded since 2009 — the last time the Eagles won a Region 23 championship.

    “This is one of the most talented teams I have ever coached,” Smith said.  "We definitely have a chance to win the state title this year.”