August 29, 2018 12:33:12 PM
STARKVILLE -- Opportunistic is a word Brooke McKee uses to describe one of the qualities she believes goal scorers need to have.
The Mississippi State senior also acknowledges having a strong foot, speed, and technical skills are other great traits to have when you want to put the ball in the back of the net with regularity.
McKee should know because last season she led MSU in scoring with 20 points and a career-best eight goals, including two game-winners.
But the 5-foot-6 forward from Huntsville, Alabama, who transferred to MSU after two years at Troy, has another key quality she feels helps goal scorer have success.
"A goal scorer is thinking to get in early and get in quick," McKee said.
McKee's combination of anticipation and refusal to be denied explains why she has been an integral part of MSU's offense for the last year and a half. McKee will look to add to her scoring total at 7 p.m. Thursday when it plays host to Central Arkansas at the MSU Soccer Field.
McKee said she has "taken some hits from goalkeepers" in recent matches as she has challenged for balls in the air and pressing forward to get in behind the defense. She feels her work rate, her ability to think ahead, and her tenacious attitude enable her to be in position to be opportunistic.
"I just want people to be able to count on me," McKee said. "I want them to know Brooke is marking and her marker is not going to score. I want to be knows as someone who can be trusted in situations like that. (On offense), I like to think I am reliable."
MSU coach Tom Anagnost said McKee isn't afraid to speak her mind on the field or to hold her teammates accountable. He feels she has a voice that is going to be an important piece to the Bulldogs' success.
"She is fearless," Anagnost said. "She has courage. She has a good feel for where the ball is going to go in scoring situations."
Anagnost believes McKee has good instincts that allow her think about where she needs to be to capitalize on her goal-scoring ability. He said the coaches knew she cared and wanted to win when she transferred to MSU. He has seen her mature in her time in Starkville and develop an even bigger voice.
McKee started 15 of 18 matches a year ago. This season, she was named to the All-SEC Watch List and has started all four matches. She scored a goal off a header against Stephen F. Austin. She also scored the first goal of the match at Memphis in the second minute.
McKee said everyone is "all in" this season and is prepared to capitalize on the lessons learned in a season that has the program competing for its first bid to the NCAA tournament. She said no one wants to experience that feeling again, which is a mentality she hopes drives everyone to remain focused and willing to take hits from goalkeepers if it means creating a chance that is the difference.
McKee, a business information systems major who might be in her final season playing soccer, plans to do everything she can to extend the Bulldogs' run as long as possible.
"I want to do better than I did last year," McKee said. "I don't want to leave anything out here."
MSU will look to stretch its season-opening winning streak to five in the first game of a three-match homestand that also will include games against Austin Peay (1 p.m., Sunday, Senior Day) and Louisiana Tech (1 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 9). MSU will kick off Southeastern Conference play at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 14, at Auburn.
A victory Thursday would help MSU match the win total for the 2014-16 seasons combined. It also would push the Bulldogs closer to the program's best start -- 8-0 -- in 2009. MSU also started the 2012 season 7-0. Last season, MSU opened with a 6-0-1 mark, which included two matches that were canceled, en route to a 9-5-4 finish, which was one of the program's best in recent memory.
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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