The Mississippi College Women’s Soccer team made great strides a season ago, finishing 2nd in the GSC Conference Tournament and earning a spot in the NCAA Regionals with a 15-4-1 record, but Head Coach Darryl Longabaugh is making sure his team doesn’t get too focused on last year’s results, including two tough postseason losses to end the season, saying, “Our first game is against Saint Leo this Friday at 4:30, and we have to focus on them…” The mantra of last season not bearing too much weight in the Choctaws’ mind was not lost on midfielder and team co-captain Katie Taylor, who said, “I think every season, the job is to build from the last one, but also we can’t hold onto that season.” She went on to say that they’ve taken lessons and learned from the losses but aren’t holding onto them.
Both Coach Longabaugh and Katie Taylor believe this Choctaw team can have a great season. Taylor said that the team will take the season one step at a time but that she has NCAA tournament aspirations for the team. Coach Longabaugh said, “We can go as far as we will take ourselves.” He also went on to say, “We have the ability to do the exact same thing we did last year; it’s just a matter of desire and really, injuries.” He also said that he believes the team could win the GSC.
Katie Taylor led the team with 5 assists last season and added 3 goals, and she said this year her individual goal is to “…have some kind of impact on every game, whether it’s an assist, or a goal, or just any way I can help the game more.” She also talked about how important her job as a team captain is, as a bridge between the coaches and players, and between the players while on the field.
Both Coach Longabaugh and Taylor both insisted on how important the team’s leadership would be, especially in the midfield. The team returns just over 90% of its goal production from last season, and both of the teams captains (Katie Taylor and Samantha Carson) are midfield players. Coach Longabaugh also mentioned Liza Wise and Lauren Dodge as two other Choctaws who had stepped up into leadership roles. The Choctaws also return one of the best goalkeepers in program history in Andrea McDonald (who earned All-GSC and All-Region honors last season). Taylor said one of her favorite parts about the team returning so many critical players from last season is the team chemistry and that they’re “clicking better than ever.”
Even with a lot of returners, the Lady Choctaws will rely on a couple of newcomers to get some crucial minutes early, such as freshmen defenders Abbie Hanna and Marisa Saunders, freshman forward Dani Avelar and Alcorn State transfer Rita Okoro.
The Choctaws will open up the season with 4 non-conference games, before heading to the state of Alabama to open up GSC play with two games against West Alabama (September 14th) and Alabama-Huntsville (September 16th), respectively. All in all, the Lady Choctaws play 17 regular season games with 13 of them coming against GSC opponents, then the GSC conference tournament opens up on October 30th with the GSC “Super Tuesday” at campuses across the GSC, and then picks back up that weekend in Montgomery, AL with the GSC semifinals and the GSC tournament championship game.
The Lady Choctaws hope to build off of last season’s successes and momentum, but will head into this season knowing it is a new year with new challenges. An experienced Choctaw team with some talented newcomers mixed in will hope to go even further than last year and accomplish a whole new set of goals.