August 22, 2017 8:15:45 PM
The signs of permanency have been installed.
A new scoreboard is positioned in the far left corner if you're facing Sprint Mart Field at the downtown Columbus Soccer Club. Strategically placed in front of the trees, two portable soccer dugouts offer some cover from the sun. At midfield, a wooden platform has been set up to provide a place for teams to film the action.
Mississippi University for Women men's soccer coach Tim Gould looks at the signs of progress and smiles.
"It has been a fun process, and I think over the last week to two weeks things have really started to come together," Gould said. "The complex is coming together."
At 6 tonight, Gould's Owls will play the first men's sporting event in school history when they take on East Central Community College in an exhibition match.
MUW will feature at least 21 freshmen on a roster of 30. Kyle Rodriguez, Tahjmon Sparks, and Jomaryee Brown (Columbus High School), Will Jones and Chandler Lester (Caledonia High), and Nathan Wilson (New Hope High) will provide the local flavor for a team that features at least 19 players from the state of Mississippi. Gould said Tuesday one more student-athlete was going to join the program, but he wasn't sure if he would be eligible to play tonight.
Gould said all of the Owls who are able to play will see time tonight in a match that will be split into two 45-minute halves or three 30-minute periods. He plans to use the match as a chance to mix and match combinations and to see what many players can do in their first college action.
"You learn a lot from the game, so I am looking forward to that," said Gould, who served as women's soccer coach at Blackburn College, a Division III school in Carlinville, Illinois, prior to coming to The W.
Gould admits it has been an adjustment learning to deal with the Mississippi heat. But he said he has been pleasantly surprised by what he has seen from the players in training. He said he has discovered the team will have depth in some spots he didn't see when he was assembling the team.
Gould is sure plenty of other issues will come up tonight, but he is anxious to get going and to continue preparations for the first official match of the season at 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 1, at Huntingdon in Montgomery, Alabama.
"Our athleticism is good across the field," Gould said. "Once we got rolling with practice, I was able to confirm my initial thoughts. It is difficult to see someone play once or twice and see the type of player they are.
"Once you put them out here (in practice), you can see it. You see a lot more in a practice than you do from a game. There are some players who have stood out and done really well and impressed me a lot."
Former Heritage Academy player and former Starkville Academy soccer coach Matt Sykes will serve as a volunteer coach (goalkeepers) for the Owls. Sykes played soccer at ECCC and at William Carey.
MUW will play cap its opening weekend at 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 2, at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Georgia. Huntingdon and LaGrange are NCAA Division III schools.
MUW will play its home opener at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 6, against Concordia-Alabama at the downtown Columbus Soccer Complex.
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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