July 13, 2012 10:52:49 AM
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
McKenzie Adams did her best not to let the disappointment creep into her mind.
Losing a two-goal lead and then the match can be disheartening to any team, but having a short memory is a key to success in tournament settings.
Still, Adams couldn't help but think back to the 2-0 lead the Mississippi 95 girls Olympic Development Program team squandered earlier in the week in a 3-2 loss to Florida.
This time, Adams thought, was going to be different.
"We let them score with less than five minutes to go to win the game," said Adams, a rising junior defender at Madison Central High School. "It was disappointing to let that lead go, but I think we knew we could do it. We had to keep our minds ready for it and do what we needed to do."
Adams and the rest of the Mississippi team responded Tuesday with a 1-0 victory that secured the Karen Flannigan Cup, the ODP Championship for Region III. The 95 team includes the top players in the 16- to 17-year-old range in the state. This is the first time a Mississippi girls team has played in the championship game. It is the first time a team from the state has won the championship.
"Other states are taking notice (of the talent in the state of Mississippi)," said Scott Ebke, who coaches the team and also is the women's soccer coach at the University of Southern Mississippi. "You can see it by the number of player from this team who were recruited by coaches from outside the state. They are not only being recruited by schools from in the state but out of the state, so other coaches know the talent that was with this team."
Team members include: Marion Crowder (Madison), Kat Stratton (Tupelo), Addie Forbus (Amory), Kayleigh Henry (Hattiesburg), Katelyn Watson (Brandon), Hailey Brohaugh (Madison), Lindsey Macher (Clinton), Ivy Painter (Madison), Lauren Marler (Brandon), Mackenzie Dickerson (Kosciusko), Dallas McKinnon (Laurel), Emily McGowan (Brandon), Charde Hannah (Tupelo), Mary Ashton Lembo (Ridgeland), and Peyton Holloway (Biloxi).
Henry, Adams, Crowder, Forbus, Watson, and Stratton were named to the Region III ODP Pool. Crowder has committed to play soccer at the University of Georgia, while Brohaugh and Stratton will play at the University of Alabama, and Forbus will play at the University of Mississippi.
Adams, who lived in Starkville for the first nine years of her life and started playing soccer there, now lives in Madison. Even though she only will be a junior in high school in 2012-13, she already has given a verbal commitment to play soccer at Mississippi State University.
Adams said the tournament was a "physically demanding" experience that included matches and practices in the evenings. She said the pace of play lived up to her expectations and provided a great challenge to the Mississippi team's defense.
"I think as the week went along we all started understanding our roles and what we were supposed to do in our positions," Adams said. "When we got to final, everything came together and we were able to win."
Adams feels the experience will "help her a ton" as she prepares for her junior season in high school and her attempt to make the Region III team.
Ebke, who is in his fourth season as an ODP coach and his third working with this age group, credits MSU coach Neil McDonald for establishing ODP training for younger age groups. He said the key for the Mississippi 95 team is a core of about 10 players has stayed together for three years, which has helped the team raise its level of play.
Ebke said Adams is one of the players who is making significant progress. He said Adams is "committed" to becoming a better soccer player and that he has no doubt she will succeed at the next level, and beyond.
"She could step into the college game right now," Ebke said. "The only thing she needs to develop is more physical strength. (At 5-foot-6), she has the makings of a great collegiate player.
"She is a leader on the backline. Technically she is very, very good and she reads the game at a high level. She has really developed the past two years. She can play multiple positions as well."
Ebke hopes the Mississippi 95 team, which includes four rising juniors in a group of players that was born in 1995, sets the example for other teams in the state and motivates them to reach even greater heights. He feels the dedication shown by the players on this team can spur younger players to be even more competitive with bigger, soccer-rich states like Texas, Georgia, and Florida.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.