August 27, 2012 10:53:15 AM
BY SCOTT WALTERS
STARKVILLE - A youth movement is underway for the Mississippi State University soccer team.
Head coach Neil Macdonald had no problems turning several of his talented freshmen loose during weekend play at the Bulldog Classic. The end result was just what the veteran head coach wanted.
Mississippi State clicked on all cylinders here Sunday, defeating the University of South Alabama 5-0 win to win the tournament title at the MSU Soccer Field.
"I saw a lot of hard work and a lot of determination out of this team this weekend," MSU sophomore midfielder Amy Hoover said. "We have worked real hard on our ball movement since last spring. The freshmen have come in and jumped right in. You were able to see our offense play on a high level today."
MSU managed 14 shots on goal and broke the contest open with a goal from Halee Heltsley in the final minute of the opening half. That shot placed MSU on top 2-0 at the break. By that time, the Bulldogs were well on their way to a 3-0 start for the first time since 2009.
"Three and 0 is a good start for this team," Hoover said. "It will help us prepare for play in the Southeastern Conference. We will get to play some of the top teams in the nation and we feel like we are ready to compete with them."
For the Bulldogs to maintain their success it will be a combination of the old with the new.
"Everyone gets along so well on this team," MSU junior forward Elisabeth Sullivan said. "The new players have really come in and practiced and played like they have been here from the beginning. I am really looking forward to some of future games to see what they can do."
Macdonald had high hopes for this incoming class of rookies. This highly-touted group is charged with helping the Bulldogs crash the upper division of the conference standings.
"We know we have quality in the freshmen class," Macdonald said. "They are very committed. We have held a few of them back for just the right moment. And I thought today all of the freshmen were just outstanding."
The Bulldogs have nine freshmen on the roster, including defender Shelby Jordan and forward Heydari, each of whom drew starts in the contest.
MSU opened the tournament with a 3-2 win over the University of Tennessee at Martin Friday night. In each victory, ball movement looked crisp as strong communication skills allowed the Bulldogs to convert on a handful of fast-break opportunities.
MSU scored 17 total goals in 19 matches last season. Improved offense was the main emphasis of the off-season.
Macdonald was pleased that the opportunity did present itself to get 20 different players onto the field.
"(Freshman) Caitlin Maloney was absolutely incredible in the middle today," Macdonald said. "A lot of our ball retention came through her. Obviously, Honeye (Heydari) has been playing out of her skin since she got here. She is a huge threat in front of the goal. Shelby Jordan at right back is so steady.
"You can see that we have a strong balance."
Hoover scored her first two goals of the season for MSU. Sullivan, the tournament's most valuable player, scored once Sunday and three times in the tournament. Madison McKee joined Heltsley in Sunday's scoring column.
Heydari and Morganne Grimes were each credited with two assists. Sullivan had the other. Skylar Rosson had four saves in goal while recording the squad's first shutout of the season. Rosson, a senior from Edmond, Okla., now has eight shutouts in goal, tying her for second all-time at MSU with Sarah Roberts.
The Bulldogs now have 10 goals through their first three matches - that is the best offensive start since 2001.