Heritage Academy senior Haley Marie Fisackerly holds up a Mississippi University for Women T-shirt on Tuesday after a signing ceremony to celebrate her decision to play soccer at The W. Seated with Haley Marie (from left): Forrest Allgood, her step father; her brother, Heath Fisackerly; her mother, Susan Allgood; Heritage Academy girls soccer coach Tom Velek; and Heritage Academy assistant girls soccer coach Jonathan Tuggle. Standing (from left): Heritage Academy Athletic Director Sean Harrison and Heritage Academy Headmaster Greg Carlyle. Photo by: Adam Minichino/Dispatch Staff Buy this photo.
February 14, 2018 10:34:52 AM
Haley Marie Fisackerly knew the change was coming.
When starting goalkeeper Haven Tuggle suffered a foot injury before the first match of the season, Fisackerly figured Heritage Academy coach Tom Velek was going to move her from defense to goalkeeper. After all, she had trained at goalkeeper throughout the summer and was familiar with the position, so it was a natural decision to make to help stabilize the Lady Patriots' defense.
Fisackerly admits she would have preferred to have remained a field player, but as a senior she realized her teammates needed her to do what was best for the squad.
"I was iffy about it, very iffy," Fisackerly said. "Then it just grew with me during summer practices and each game. I thought, 'Maybe this is the spot for me because it made me feel more safe in that box.' "
Fisackerly did her best to make goalkeeper her own in a final season that helped her earn a place in the annual Mississippi Association of Independent Schools (MAIS) Senior All-Star game, which features some of the state's best players. On Tuesday, Fisackerly took another step toward making the position her own when she declared her intentions to play soccer at the Mississippi University for Women in a signing ceremony at Heritage Academy.
The W, which is in Columbus,
welcomed intercollegiate athletic competition back to its campus this school year with men's soccer, women's cross country, volleyball, baseball, and softball. In the 2018-19 school year, The W will field a women's soccer team, a men's cross country team, men's and women's tennis teams, and a men's golf team.
Fisackerly, who recorded 30 saves in a regular-season match against Starkville Academy, said staying close to home was a factor in her decision, as was the excitement of helping to build a tradition in a new program.
"It took me a couple of weeks for me to think do I really want to take this next step," Fisackerly said. "Sometimes I thought I wanted to be like a regular college student. Other times, I thought, 'Maybe I do want to do this.'
"I have always wanted to play at the next level, but I have never had the chance until now, and it really came true."
Fisackerly said no one convinced her to play. Instead, she said she thought about the decision and prayed about it until finally "committing" to it for herself, her friends, and her family.
"I knew I wanted to do this," Fisackerly said. "Even though you may go to a private school and you may not get seen a lot, I wanted to tell them that you can do it."
Fisackerly said she isn't sure where she will play in college, but she believes it will be goalkeeper. She said she is eager to re-dedicate herself to getting better in all areas so she can help the Owls have success in their inaugural season under coach Gray Massey.
Velek said Fisackerly excelled in her new position. He said she moved back into a field position when Tuggle returned to the team in the final three matches. Velek said Fisackerly didn't complain and wound up earning All-State honors in what he called her "secondary" position.
"I just saw in her a really tenacious defender, so we put her in the back and she really became the core of that back line," Velek said. "The W is getting a player who can do a lot for them and who is very coachable and a person who doesn't mind where the team needs her to go."
Velek said Fisackerly played in the center of the Lady Patriots' defense and provided a strong voice that helped keep the team organized. He said he was proud to see how she handled the move to goalkeeper and how she navigated through the recruiting process.
"Things came together really well at The W," said Velek, who is a professor at The W. "I am excited to see her play. She is getting a great institution, and the institution is getting a great player."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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