February 9, 2018 10:47:03 AM
CALEDONIA -- The shock has worn off for Blair Ward and Savannah Andrewsen.
These days, changing positions or moving from varsity to junior varsity and back don't faze Ward, Andrewsen, and the rest of their Caledonia High School girls soccer teammates because they have come to trust each other and coach Louis Alexander's plan.
The latest example of that continuity came Monday night when Caledonia defeated Senatobia in the first round of the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 4A State tournament. The next step will come at 5:30 p.m. Friday when Caledonia takes on Northeast Jones at Wayne County High School. Alexander said the game was moved to another high school so it can be played on artificial turf due to all of the recent rain that has hit the state.
Caledonia has been though enough changes this season that even a little rain or damp field conditions don't appear to affect it. That's because Ward and Andrewsen, who are sophomores, have epitomized the ability of the Lady Confederates to learn a new possession style of play and to change positions to fit that philosophy.
For Ward, who was a midfielder, that took moving to left center defender
"I have played with most of these girls most of my life," Ward said. "I moved back a position, so it was hard to remember to stay back and not to go forward because I used to play midfield. All of the other girls helped out a lot with telling me what I needed to fix."
Ward said the Lady Confederates have had to learn to trust each other and believe their teammates will do their jobs. She acknowledged it took a little while, but she said now the team is "pretty set in stone."
That's good news for Alexander, who is in his first season coaching the schools girls and boys soccer teams.
"There has been zero apprehension as far as any of these girls changing any kind of position," Alexander said. "They're all team players. ... I tell them all of the time. It is just like life, if you have a job, it is easier to get the job you want. Soccer relates to that. If you just get on the field, if it is position you're not used to playing, just being on the field increases your chances of getting to the position you ultimately want to play, if you don't fall in love with where you play."
Andrewsen epitomizes that mentality. She started the season with the varsity team and then moved back to the JV team to get additional playing time. She said the move initially tested her confidence, but she said she worked to regain it and eventually re-joined the varsity team. After taking a little time to get reacquainted with her teammates, Andrewsen, who is in her first year on the team, has provided a stabilizing presence on defense.
"I think a lot of it deals with trust," Andrewsen said. "Out of school and in school we have learned to talk to each other and to get to know one another. The more you get to know someone, the more you trust them."
The trust was key for Andrewsen, who said she was "shy" initially and didn't really talk. The rest of the Lady Confederates often were the same way before many of the players learned the importance of communication. Now the players talk all over the field and enjoy being loud.
"I just think now we all know what the other person is going to do and exactly how they're going to play," Andrewsen said. "I think the amount of trust from the beginning of the season to now is just such a big gap. It has increased so much.
"Each player's goal is to play the best they can to stay on the varsity team. I think they will play their hardest at whatever position the coach puts them in. I think whenever a player moves or changes positions they always do well and try their best."
Alexander said winning has helped the transition, but he said all of the players have "bought in" and want to be part of the success. He said that holds true, too, for the substitutes, which bodes well for the future for a team that enters the second round at 9-8-1 after going undefeated in its district.
Alexander said at least five starters and more reserves have changed positions during the season. He also said all of the players have developed so much to help the team build the trust Ward and Andrewsen said has been instrumental.
"If they played against themselves, the girls that are here right now would beat them every time," Alexander said.
Said Ward, "It is kind of shocking because at the beginning of the year we didn't think we were going to do too well with all of the changes," Ward said, "but it is really exciting to have this opportunity."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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