March 3, 2011 9:44:00 AM
The New Hope High School girls soccer team''s success is attracting attention.
Coming off the program''s best season, goalkeeper Brandi Brantley, defender Anna Holley, and midfielder Bridget Tedford signed scholarships Wednesday to play soccer at the next level.
Brantley and Tedford will continue their soccer careers at Hinds Community College, while Holley will play at Itawamba C.C.
"We''re beyond excited because it shows the growth of our program in the positive direction," New Hope High coach Mary Nagy said.
Many of the younger, middle school players who were part. Nagy said Brantley, Tedford, and Holley have helped "leave a legacy" that future classes can build on.
This season, New Hope (13-4) earned its first playoff win with a 3-2 victory in overtime against Oxford. The Lady Trojans then delivered a pesky performance in a 4-2 loss to eventual Class 5A state runner-up Ridgeland. In 2010, Ridgeland beat New Hope 6-0.
Brantley and Holley, who have been mainstays in the school''s softball program, anchored the defense, while Tedford helped organize and fuel the offense.
Brantley has played soccer for only two years. She joined the team when Holley was supposed to be the team''s goalkeeper, but an injury from softball season prevented her from playing, which opened the door for Brantley. She attended a camp for goalkeepers and has learned a lot about the game in a short time. She initially figured she wouldn''t play a sport in college, but she soon realized she could continue her maturation as a soccer player in college.
"I have worked hard and I have did what I had to do," Brantley said.
Tedford has played soccer since she was 7. She said getting a chance to play the sport in college was something she hoped would happen ever since she went to a soccer camp at the University of Mississippi when she was in ninth grade.
"It has been a great experience," Tedford said. "I love New Hope. I will never forget it here."
Like Brantley, Holley is extremely excited to continue to learn and to grow as a soccer players. After playing a variety of positions on the school''s slow- and fast-pitch softball teams, Holley said she knows she can do so much more and that she can get so much better if she focuses on soccer.
"A month ago, I didn''t think I was going to play anything," Holley said. "Then I got a call from (ICC) coach (Mike Sullivan) and he said he was really interested in me. I realized I had all of these options open. I went to the campus and saw how everybody loved it there and how great he was with his players, so I decided I would go ahead and do it."
Holley said the door is still open to play softball. Since East Mississippi C.C. no longer has a soccer program, Holley could be protected by the EMCC softball program. If she is, she wouldn''t be able to play the sport at ICC.
With so many other players coming back next season, Nagy hopes the ones who attended the signing ceremony for Brantley, Tedford, and Holley will leave an impression and push them to realize their soccer dreams.
"It lets these young ladies know there is opportunity beyond high school if they really want it and work hard," Nagy said. "These three have worked hard and have been such leaders on the field."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.