February 7, 2013 11:19:29 AM
Scott Walters - firstname.lastname@example.org
STARKVILLE -- Starkville Academy senior Tiffany Huddleston has always enjoyed soccer.
The opportunity to play college soccer in her hometown is an added bonus.
On Wednesday, Huddleston signed a National Letter of Intent to play soccer at Mississippi State University.
"I have grown up in Starkville and always been a Bulldog," Huddleston said. "The opportunity to play college soccer and go to my favorite school is like a dream come true. It was an opportunity too good to pass up."
Starkville Academy coach Robert Gardner felt like a proud father Wednesday. Gardner believes Huddleston has the raw athletic talent to compete in the always challenging Southeastern Conference.
"I have never had a player who has had as many athletic qualities as she does," Gardner said. "She is all about sacrifice and putting the team first. She will be an instant contributor. She will work within the system the new coach (Aaron Gordon) is going to install. I think this is a great opportunity. She can play on that level."
While Huddleston verbally committed to the Bulldogs two years ago, an offseason coaching change had no impact. Gordon will make his MSU coaching debut this fall when Huddleston and the remainder of the incoming freshman class arrive on campus.
"I really feel good about all of the coaches," Huddleston said. "They have made me feel like they wanted me, and I knew I wanted to be a part of this program. It is an exciting time. There are a lot of young players on the team. I am looking forward to getting started."
With the demands of being in one of the nation's best conferences, Gordon will look to young faces. Huddleston is excited about that challenge.
"I have worked real hard on my game since the season ended," Huddleston said. "I am looking forward to the summer and a chance to start working out with the team. It is going to be a challenge playing in the SEC, but it is one I am looking forward to."
The opportunity to play where friends and family can watch only helped seal the deal.
"I have always liked Starkville," Huddleston said. "I thought it was a great place to live. I have grown up right next to the university. To be able to be part of the school as a student-athlete is very exciting. Playing college soccer will be time consuming and a challenge, but I look forward to embracing it each day."
Coming on the heels of boys soccer players Zach Slaughter and Colby Henderson signing to play soccer at Meridian Community College, Gardner is proud to have a talented trio set to play on the next level.
"It is a compliment to the program," Gardner said. "This is an exciting time for Starkville Academy soccer. It shows we are beginning to be recognized as a quality program. I am excited to see what each of those players can do on the college
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter