-Leslie Fallon, Sports Editor
Pre-wrap on head, senior Melanie Benner, along with the rest of the Lady Choctaws women’s soccer team, was packed and ready to depart for Harding University in Arkansas last Thursday.
It was Benner’s 22nd birthday on the team’s day of departure, and she had also recently broken a school record. Benner now holds MC’s all-time assist title with her 27th contribution occurring in the 3-1 victory over LSU-Alexandria.
Benner was born and raised in Seminole, Fla., and accredits the start of her soccer career to her baseball loving family. As the middle child of two male, baseball-playing siblings, Benner wanted to “do something different.”
“I started playing recreational soccer and I really liked it, and I was good at it so I stuck with it,” Benner admitted with a chuckle.
“We had an interesting club team,” Benner said, while explaining what made her the player she is today. “Each girls’ team practiced with the boys’ team so I feel that helped a lot with the competitiveness of my game.”
As her career progressed into high school, Melanie earned positions as team captain, First Team All-County performer, PCAC Coach’s First Team, 2010-2011 team MVP, 2009-2010 5A State Finalists, 2010-2011 5A State Semi-Finalists, and Beef O’Brady’s Athlete of the Week. After entering her first year as a Lady Choctaw, Benner continued to amaze, starting every game. She contributed on the field by scoring a total of nine goals and assisting five others during her first season. In her sophomore year, Benner earned First Team All-ASC selection, NSCAA DIII Second Team All-West Region selection, and ASC All-Academic honors because of her tenacity, having produced five assists, eight goals, and ranking in the top 10 most points in the conference. Last year Benner ended the season with seven goals and 13 assists, and was awarded First Team All-ASC selection, and NCCAA Mid-East All-Region Team selection. All of this was in addition to maintaining a GPA in good standing as an exercise science major, having a social life, and participating in MC’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
“The hardest thing about being a collegiate athlete is time management, but I make free time,” said Benner. “I don’t like being stressed out with school so I paint as a means to escape.” Melanie Benner’s fierce facade on the field is polar opposite to her creative, soft side, which includes her love for art and children and love for her team.
“The most rewarding part about being a Lady Choctaw is I get to play with this girls,” said Benner, “This team is the best and once you’re on it, you do everything for your team. It’s THIS team that’s special.”
“I aspire to be a great leader, on and off the field, like my captains were my freshman year. And they were great soccer players, so if I could be half the player and leader they were that’d be awesome,” said Benner.
“Mel plays very poised, like her life,” Junior Meghan Dodge said about her teammate.
“She’s really good at reading where the ball is going to be,” added senior captain, and Benner’s roommate, Kaitlin Kiss. “I like being her roommate a lot!” exclaimed Kiss, “We’re all super clean but super chill, and we all like to dance in our room together sometimes.”
With high hopes to backpack around Europe after graduation, Benner first will finish out her fourth season of eligibility with the end of the Lady Choctaw’s first Division 2 season, and will complete her fourth year at MC in the spring of 2015.
The Lady Choctaw’s next home game is Tuesday, Oct. 30, at 4 p.m. against Millsaps. Come out and support!