Defense and Leadership Has Led to the Lady Choctaws 5-1 Start! By Corey Rholdon, Sports Editor
The Mississippi College Lady Choctaws are currently ranked 22nd in the country, and have started out the season with a 5-1 record. A big reason for that is defense; MC started out GSC play with 3 straight road games and in those games, the opposing team has scored 0 goals.
After waiting two years, goalkeeper Gabby Kayser has gotten an opportunity to play, and she has made the most of it, winning the GSC defender of the week. “It is so awesome. It is unbelievable that all this hard work I have been doing for two years is paying off,” said Kayser.
The Lady Choctaws Head Coach Darryl Longabaugh believes that back line will only continue to get better. “I think our formation is a part of it, as we run a 3-5-2. You get a little bit more support from the mid-field. Gaylynn Cooper, Liza Wise and Scarlett Hodges have been doing an outstanding job shutting everything down. Liza Wise has been doing a great job playing centerback in that group. When we make mistakes, we have Gabby Kayser in back making the saves. They are working well back there, and I see it only getting better because we are also getting healthier back there too,” Longabaugh said.
Junior mid-fielder Lauren Kate Carter has also praised the back line for not only their great play but their leadership and communication. “Our defense is solid; we have great communicators in the back. Your leadership needs to come from the back because they see the whole field in front of you. It is awesome to have a defense to tell me as a mid-fielder what I can do and what spaces are open,” said Carter.
While the defense has been dominating, the offense has gotten off to a slow start but Carter and Coach Longabaugh believe that the goals will start to fall. “Simple…Simple…Simple… Put the ball past the keeper into the net. That is all that we need to do; we have over-complicated it. I think it is going to come, we are too talented up top for it not to start falling. I think we start to relax and understand that is when we will start scoring 2 to 3 goals a game,” Longabaugh said.
“We have had so many opportunities in front of the goal, so we just have to be patient and execute when the opportunities are there. We have to make our shots, be consistent and have composure under the goal,” said Carter.
MC has gone to the GSC tournament championship games in back-to-back seasons. The team lost to West Florida by the score of 2-0 in 2016, and last year fell to Lee 1-0. This year, the team is motivated not only to go back to the GSC championship but to win it. “It is motivating going two years in a row, getting so close to that championship title that we just more determined than ever to come away with it,” Kayser said.
The Lady Choctaws also want to get back to the NCAA tournament, in which they were the number 1 seed in the South Regional but lost in the first game to West Florida. “The loss in the NCAA Regionals has motivated us to get back because we do not want that to be a dark spot on our program,” said Longabaugh.
Mississippi College plays two home games this weekend vs. Shorter on Friday and against Lee on Saturday. Lee is the team who beat the Lady Choctaws in the Championship game last season, and Coach Longabaugh said that his team needs to out-match the Lady Flames’ intensity to win that game.