August 7, 2013 12:20:19 PM
STARKVILLE -- True to her nature as a team leader, Morganne Grimes naturally deflects praise to her teammates.
When asked if there has been a secret to her durability in her first three seasons with the Mississippi State University women's soccer team, Grimes said her teammates are the motivation that keeps her going.
"I see Elisabeth (Sullivan) doing amazing and see her working so hard for the team that it makes me want to work hard for her," Grimes said. "It is just such a selfless thing to work hard, especially in a team atmosphere. I want to do it for them, and I think it goes both ways."
Grimes, a 5-foot-5 senior defender from Fayetteville, Ga., led MSU in minutes played as a freshman (1,724) and as a junior (1,836). Her role doesn't figure to change this season, even though she will help welcome a class of 10 newcomers and first-year coach Aaron Gordon into the program. Earlier this morning, Grimes, Gordon, and the rest of the Bulldogs officially kicked off the 2013 season with their first practice. The practice was the first step in preparing the team for a stretch of 15 practices that will lead up to an exhibition match at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 16, against the University of South Florida at the MSU Soccer Stadium in Starkville.
Grimes is expected to team with returning starters Shannen Jainudeen and Shelby Jordan on defense. Senior Elisabeth Sullivan, a second-team All-Southeastern Conference selection last season, will lead the offense. Last season, Sullivan scored 12 goals to set a new standard for goals in a career.
Sullivan and Grimes have been fixtures in the lineup in their first three seasons at MSU. Sullivan doesn't expect that to change for Grimes, a team captain, with a new coach in their final season.
"Her attitude is just amazing," Sullivan said. "She never talks negative, which is really what you need in a captain. She has really good leadership skills, which is also what you really need. She is just a really great person."
Grimes came to MSU knowing she wanted to be on the field and to help everyone do their job. She fit right in as a vocal leader who started 20 games and helped organize the Bulldogs' defense. Her maturation continued as a sophomore, even though she had the audacity to start only 18 of the team's 19 games. She still finished second on the team in minutes (1,704).
This season, she hopes her willingness to talk and to be vocal will set the standard for a young team that is transitioning to a new style of play.
Gordon, who is in his first job as a head coach in college after spending the past six seasons as an assistant and an associate head coach at Texas Tech University, plans to rely on seniors like Grimes and Sullivan to instill the right attitude in his program. He feels both players are diligent workers and conscientious teammates who have the best interests of the program in their hearts.
"Morganne has been great for our coaching staff's perspective because we have asked more of her from a leadership role than probably ever, not that she wasn't a good leader," Gordon said. "She is a warrior. She can play in a lot of places. She can play in the back, and she probably continue to do that. But she has a lot of versatility in her game, and with our team I have told her she could find yourself playing in a lot of places, not because you're not fantastic at center back, but because you maybe will be able to help us in other ways."
Grimes would love to see her leadership help pay dividends for MSU, which was 9-10-1 last season in what turned out to be the final season for Neil Macdonald, who was re-assigned in the athletic department. MSU went 58-103-4 in Macdonald's nine seasons. The program qualified for the SEC tournament one time (2004) and had only two seasons (2004, 2009) in which it finished at .500 or better in that time.
Grimes feels the example she has set in her first three seasons and that she will continue to set in the preseason will go a long way toward helping Gordon transform the program. As a senior, she would like to see nothing better than to help the program have its best season in recent memory and set the stage for even bigger things in the future.
"If I can show them I am going to be on the field and working hard the whole time, they're going to trust me," Grimes said. "I feel like that is a big part of being a leader, them being able to trust me and know that I am not going to take advantage of them, their time, or their effort."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.