March 11, 2010 8:53:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- Raevonne Shoemaker likes being an individual and standing out, so it makes sense she plays goalkeeper.
The Starkville High junior started all of the Lady Jackets'' games this season and has been a fixture in Anna Albritton''s lineup for several years. It started when she was a seventh-grader, having to beat out two seniors and a junior to earn the starting job.
She gets a thrill knowing she''s the last line of the defense and relishes the rush of penalty kick shootouts.
A goalkeeper since she was 11, Shoemaker helped lead the Lady Jackets to a 9-5 record and a berth in the Class 6A playoffs, where they lost to Madison Central.
With an 84-percent save rate and 60 percent of her starts resulting in clean sheets, Shoemaker''s selection as The Commercial Dispatch''s Girls Soccer Player of the Year is further validated by her work in overtime.
Shoemaker saved 8 of 13 overtime penalty kicks this season, and believes it became a strength of her skill set this season.
"(Penalty kicks) happen all the time," Shoemaker said. "You have to learn how other players play. You have to look into their eyes because their first glimpse is usually where they''re going. If not, you have to watch the ball. The second you see those hips turn, that''s where you go. I took pride in every PK I stopped."
Goalkeepers often get lost in the shuffle when thinking about the top players in the area, but their importance to a team''s success is obvious. The ability to go 30 minutes without seeing a shot on goal and to make a play in a split second is priceless, and an art, according to Shoemaker.
"A lot of people look at a keeper as just another player in the box," Shoemaker said. "There''s so much technical work that goes into it, and it can be a demanding position. The first time I dove and hit the ground I thought, ''Do I have to keep doing this over and over again? Is it ever going to get easier?'' I just kept working hard."
When Shoemaker started playing goalkeeper, she took lessons with Steve Bush, who used to play in Germany. She had every angle of her game analyzed, criticized, and refined to become Starkville''s first-choice goalkeeper.
Confident in her skills, Shoemaker was relied on even more this season as the Lady Jackets struggled in front of goal. Plus, the team experienced a heavy turnover from last season.
"I felt like there was more pressure, just thinking the ball''s going to be on our half more than usual," Shoemaker said. "The whole team had to shift, too, and be in a more defensive mode. But I play better when there''s more pressure. A lot of good players play a lot better when they have pressure. You have to ready yourself for that."
Shoemaker hailed the work and cohesion of her backline, which included sisters Christine and Alex Mazzola at center backs, Ida Knox at right back, and Jen Henderson at left back.
Shoemaker said Knox, a senior, provided the extra vocal presence to help keep everyone aligned at the back.
"She was our loudmouth back there. She was a big part of our defense," Shoemaker said. "She helped communication and girls responded to her."
Despite her solid season, Shoemaker feels her leaping ability cost her a few goals this season. Being quick to the ground is essential, but Shoemaker wants to be able to get higher off the ground.
"Just thinking back to Tupelo, the goal they scored from outside the 18 went just over my hand and all I could think was, ''Only if,'' " Shoemaker said. "There''s a couple of times, even horizontally, where I thought that. There was also a goal in the playoff game against Madison Central where the announcer said, ''Beautiful goal by so and so girl'' and, ''Valiant dive by Raevonne Shoemaker.'' All I could think about was how I couldn''t get there."
But Shoemaker isn''t hanging her head on the shots that got away. She has one more season to lead Starkville out of the first round of the playoffs.
If you haven''t seen her, just look in goal or look for the throwback Chevy truck with the mud tires riding around town. It''s an extension of her personality.
"There''s one keeper on the field and there''s one big blue truck that''s got a nine-inch lift and 38-inch tires," Shoemaker said. "I kind like to stick out on the field and be the best. I feel the same way about the truck."
GIRLS formation: 3-1-2-1-3
GIRLS POY: Raevonne Shoemaker, Jr., Starkville High (84 percent save rate, saved 8 of 13 OT PKs, 60 percent of starts resulted in a clean sheet.)
GK: Shaina Cruse, Sr., Caledonia (103 saves, 1.78 GAA)
RB: Ida Knox, Sr., Starkville High
CB:Sunnie Rushing, Sr., Caledonia, (2 goals, 3 assts, 48 tackles)
LB: Christine Mazzola, So., Starkville High
DM: Morgan Miller, Jr., Starkville High (6 goals, 33 SOG)
CM: Demi Menotti, So., New Hope, (6 goals, 2 assists)
CM: Bailey Clark, Jr., Starkville High (10 goals)
CAM: Courtney Baker, Sr., Amory, (25 goals, 4 assists, 30 takes)
RF: Sarah Hern, So., New Hope (8 goals, 7 assists)
CF: Mariah Duck, Sr., Starkville High (5 goals)
LF: Addie Forbus, Fr., Amory (40 goals, 22 assists)
Match Day Subs
GK: Anna Holley, Jr., New Hope (39 saves against Ridgeland)
MF: Effie Morrison, 7th, New Hope (9 goals, 11 assists)
F: Brittany Walker, 7th, New Hope (9 goals, 12 assists)
D: Gwen Trahan, So., Caledonia (63 breakups)
F: Lara Evans, Sr., Amory, (14 goals, 7 assists)
Honorable Mention -
D: Kristen Newman, Sr., MSMS
Harley Tedford, Sr., New Hope
Reagan Hern, Fr., New Hope
Aleni Bryant, Sr., New Hope
Morgan Miller, Jr., Amory (104 takes)
Carlee Curley, So., Caledonia, (57 breakups)
Gwen Trahan, So., Caledonia (63 breakups)
MF: Rebecca Kim, Sr., MSMS
Taylor Josey, Sr., Starkville High (2 goals)
Haley Tutor, Jr., New Hope (1 goal, 2 assists)
Bridget Tedford, Jr., New Hope (1 goal)
Darby Williams, Fr., Caledonia (9 goals, 5 assists)
F: Morgan Hardin, Sr., New Hope (5 goals, 5 assists)
Peyton Stanley, Fr., Caledonia (8 goals, 8 assists)