February 11, 2010 9:27:00 AM
Jessee Mims realized a goal Wednesday morning that had been more than five years in the making.
Her dream blossomed in eighth grade when she started to play soccer. Not only did she fall in love with the sport, but her parents also took the sport.
What became more than a hobby for her family turned into a point of focus for Mims, who knew she wanted soccer to play a big part in her life after high school.
"Every time I played soccer I knew it was my goal to play soccer in college," Mims said.
The Heritage Academy senior realized that goal Wednesday when she signed a scholarship to play soccer in the fall at Itawamba Community College.
Mims, who started her soccer career at Caledonia High School and spent the past two seasons at Heritage Academy, also considered playing soccer at Delta State and Freed-Hardeman University in Tennessee. But she reconsidered her options after filling out a soccer questionnaire on the ICC soccer Web site.
After talking to ICC coach Mike Sullivan and visiting the school''s campus in Fulton, she knew ICC was the place for her.
"I loved the campus and coach Sullivan is an awesome guy. He is really nice," Mims said. "Going to the junior college level I think I will feel a lot more comfortable playing, and, hopefully, I can move on and play somewhere else."
Mims played a key role in her two seasons as a center midfielder at Heritage Academy. As a junior, she was the team''s leading scorer and offensive MVP and helped lead the Lady Patriots to the Division II state title match. This season, she led the squad in goals and was co-offensive MVP and a team captain with Emily McConnell.
Krisi Boren, who recently completed her second season as Heritage Academy''s girls soccer coach, said she was excited when she saw Mims at tryouts and realized quickly she would be a key part of the team''s success. She said it will be extremely difficult to replace Mims'' skills as a player and the intangibles she brought to the team.
"She is a great overall athlete, and she has the heart and talent," Boren said. "I even say she has the potential because she is willing to learn new things, which is key in an athlete. I think she will fit in great at ICC."
Boren said Mims will make a smooth transition to college because she always has a smile on her face and that she is a wonderful teammate who is always supporting and encouraging. She said it is satisfying to see a student-athlete be as focused as Mims and earn an opportunity to realize their goals.
Sullivan said he heard all of those good things and more about Mims when he talked to local coaches. He said he relied on the opinion of a former ICC assistant soccer coach, Brian Bennett, who is now the boys soccer coach at Starkville High, when it came to offering Mims a scholarship.
"He is one of the few guys who can tell me about a player and I don''t have to see them. I know he or she can play," Sullivan said. "I talked to a lot of people and I think she is somebody who might be able to help us right away."
Sullivan said Mims has good size, speed and ball skills, and that she could find playing time as a midfielder or as a forward. He was most impressed with the passion Mims and her family have for soccer, which convinced him she will be a good fit at ICC.
"This is a girl I would have missed if not for the help," Sullivan said. "I would love to get out and see everybody play, but I can''t be everywhere all of the time. I typically sign one or two players a year this way."
Mims hopes that work ethic will help her raise her level so she will be able to contribute at ICC and then move on to play at a four-year school. She said she anticipates studying nursing at ICC.
"I just hope the work ethic that the coaches, headmaster, and the teachers at Heritage Academy have instilled in me carries over and I can take what they taught me and apply it to junior college," Mims said. "I know I need to stay focused on my academics and on my athletics."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.