Ready To Grind/by Elliot Reeder
The Lady Choctaw soccer team will be looking to build off of what was arguably the best season in program history in 2018. Last year, the team went 16-4 overall with a 12-1 mark in conference play and made a run all the way to the NCAA Division II Round of 16.
The opening weekend of the season was a difficult one for the Lady Choctaws. They traveled to Florida to take on tough non-conference opponents Saint Leo and Tampa University. In the first game against Saint Leo, MC lost 1-0 even after having five more shots on goal than their opponents. In the game against Tampa, MC fell behind 2-0 before two quick goals from Freshman Kaylee Foster evened up the score at 2-2 and eventually forced overtime. In OT, team captain Katie Taylor scored in the 100th minute to give the Lady Choctaws the thrilling 3-2 overtime victory.
Taylor called the loss to Saint Leo a “wake up call,” adding, “The first weekend is always an interesting one because you have all those nerves, and you are playing for the first time with a new team. We definitely learned a lot and had a wake up call with a loss, but sometimes you need that as a team. We would rather have that now than midway through the season.”
Head coach Darryl Longabaugh says that the opening road trip “really showed a few things to us, because we played quality opponents. We struggled early in the first halves of both games, and that’s something we are going to have to correct. In the second half, we dominated both teams in possession and in attack, I felt like. That is something we want to be better at, we still need to work on that.”
Longabaugh also feels that the trip offered a great bonding experience for his players, saying “It was a good weekend. It was good for the girls to bond on the bus. It was a twelve-hour trip both ways. So it was good for us.”
MC comes into this season with high expectations after last year’s stellar season, but Longabaugh says that he is more worried about how the team plays as opposed to end of season successes, saying, “My expectations are to play the best we can. Advancing, conference titles and the NCAAs will all take care of themselves if we play the very best we can because this team is good from top to bottom. We want to set goals, but I think more importantly we have to look at how we play each game–how we step up each game.”
The leaders that Longabaugh has seen step up through preseason and early in the season are a quartet of seniors. They are team captains Taylor and Liza Wise, along with goalkeeper Gabby Kayser and forward Jess Davenport.
Part of the reason for the high expectations heading into the season is that MC returns six of their top eight goalscorers from a year ago, they are Taylor, Davenport, Emma Claire Furman, Lindsey Stephenson, Dani Avelar, and Wise.
The preseason for the Lady Choctaws was an interesting one due to the high expectations and the weather. MC had to contend with heat, plus a large amount of lightning, which would stall out practices. Overall though, Longabaugh is satisfied with how his team looked in the preseason, saying, “Overall, I thought preseason went well. We really started clicking.”
The Lady Choctaws will not be back in action until Sept. 21 when they host UT-Tyler. They will open up GSC play on Sept. 27 against West Alabama. If MC makes it to the conference tournament, that will run Nov. 12-17. Taylor says she has high expectations for this team. “I think this team is a team that is ready to grind.”