Lady Choctaws win GSC SCS title/by Elliot Reeder
On Saturday, April 3, the MC women’s soccer team beat Lee 3-0 in the championship game of the GSC Spring Championship Series. The Lady Choctaws jumped in front early as Emily McNair scored in the ninth minute. MC then doubled their lead in the 27th minute as Lindsey Stephenson scored. MC cruised through the rest of the first half and led 2-0 at the break.
Lee began to get more of the ball in the second half, but they couldn’t get the ball past MC goalkeeper Sara Maleski. Then in the 87th minute, Avery Hederman got the dagger as she got the ball on a counter and pulled a shot from outside the box and put it in the net to give MC the 3-0 win.
The Lady Choctaws dominated the first half, which was a large deciding factor in the match. On the first half, head coach Darryl Longabaugh said, “From the get-go we talked to the girls and said, ‘When we get out here, we have to be on our front foot. Just get after the ball. Be aggressive, but not fouling every time we get after it.’ They took that to heart, and brought it out as a team, as a whole team across the board. We put them [Lee] on their heels the entire first half. And it showed by us scoring two.”
McNair added, “That first half was so intense. We came out ready to go. We played our game, we got the ball down. I just had a good feeling the whole time. I knew once we got that first goal that we were going to win.”
Four Lady Choctaws were named to the all-tournament team. They were McNair, Erin Hederman, Maleski, and Beatrice Currie. Hederman was also named the most outstanding player of the tournament. On her award, Hederman said, “I wouldn’t have been able to win it without all of my teammates. They get all of the credit for that. I couldn’t have scored the goals I did without the people that passed it to me. I’m really thankful to play for a team that really emphasizes teamwork, and that’s how we win.”
On the season, MC finishes up 8-0 overall. The Lady Choctaws went 5-0 in group play, and won Group A in the Spring Championship Series. They then rallied off wins over Alabama-Huntsville, West Alabama, and then Lee in the tournament. On the season as a whole, Longabaugh added, “We have won a game from the lead, we have won a game after being down, we have won a game after playing poorly, and we have won a game after playing great. Today was the actual show of that by winning the final game 3-0 against a very good Lee team.”
McNair also added, “This season has been crazy, just with COVID and everything. We just came out to practice every day ready to work. There was just something different about this team. We know how to win.”
COVID did have a major effect on the season. College soccer is a sport usually played in the fall, but it was postponed from last fall to this spring due to COVID. MC also played a conference-only schedule, and there is no NCAA tournament this spring. Even with all the changes, Hederman sees some positives with the change to the schedule: “COVID actually has given us the opportunity to practice and practice and practice. I feel like that’s the reason why we did so well in this tournament, because we practiced so much together and under such strict conditions that it helped us get the results that we did. I’m thankful for the year of practice that we had because that makes the victory even sweeter.”
The women’s soccer program has been on the cusp of winning a GSC tournament title the last few seasons (they have won regular season titles), but this was the first time they got over the hump. McNair, a senior, added, “The last time I was here [in the GSC title game] was my freshman year. I was thinking about that and just getting revenge and coming out and winning this game. I knew we could do it with this team.”
MC will now turn their eyes towards next season, which is currently planned on being played next fall as normal. All seniors on the roster also have the opportunity to return for another season if they choose due to the blanket year of extra eligibility given by the NCAA. The Lady Choctaws will hope to parlay this season’s success into the fall of 2021.