July 8, 2010 10:23:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- By mid August, Mississippi State University''s soccer team will have the facilities upgrade that will ensure a rain-soaked season doesn''t take a toll on games and training routines.
In Mississippi State''s third turf and irrigation project with Georgia-based Sports Turf Company Inc., the soccer field will receive a sand-based soil, new irrigation, and sub-surface drainage. The $400,000 project will feature MSU-grown MS Express grass, a brand used for MSU baseball''s practice infield.
MSU used the same private contractor for its baseball and softball fields last season.
MSU''s soccer team felt the pain of having to wait for its renovation, as frequent rain washed one match and affected high school competitions throughout the region last year.
For the Bulldogs, a difficult five-match road swing in October was coupled with abandoning practice outside and being forced to work indoors.
"You lose the full effect of playing normally," MSU senior center back Leanna Baldner said of how the work inside affected the team. "A lot of people don''t think about this, but five yards or five feet can make a big difference, especially for the wide players when you get the ball, open up your body and the sideline is right there.
"If you''re not practicing on a bigger field, you''re not as likely to spread out."
The dip in form showed as MSU lost all five road matches and was held scoreless four times. The stretch came after MSU tied Florida and South Carolina at home en route to a 8-2-2 start.
"Training indoors really hurt the latter part of the season," MSU coach Neil Macdonald said. "The surface and the angles were different. It was a big month for us."
The time was stressful, too, for Mississippi State superintendent of sports turf Bart Prather, who had similar drainage issues with Mississippi State''s practice football fields. Prather, who has been at MSU for more than 10 years, said last year''s surface was in top form and was left unplayable after a large amount of rain.
"Our soil was so wet we couldn''t get equipment on it," Prather said. "Our water table was completely full."
The problem should be solved by mid-August, when Prather anticipates the renovation to be completed. Rain could push back the targeted completion date.
The Bulldogs open practice Aug. 1, and the best-case scenario could mean the team practices at its home park the week of season and home opener against the University of Alabama at Birmingham on Aug. 27.
MSU''s sand-based soil replaces the native clay-based soil used since the park opened in 1995. The switch allows water to drain more easier from the field.
"If the system works to perfection, you won''t have any issues," Prather said. "Two days of rain leading up to a game, we''ll have enough time to get it ready and not have standing water on the field. It will be a firm surface and footing''s going to be better."
The reduction of the field''s crown could benefit the game the most. The crown at the center of the park will be reduced from a 1 3/4 percent slope to a .5. Prather estimates a 10-12 inch difference when the field is completed.
"I don''t think you realize it playing in the center, but (crowning) does affect how the ball rolls," Baldner said. "It''s a subtle hill, and if you''re a wide player you''ll feel the effects of having to cross it throughout an entire game."
The field upgrade, which comes two years after the complex''s press box was renovated and one season after a video board was installed, is good news to Macdonald, who hopes to deliver MSU''s second winning season in the past six years. The work puts the MSU program on level footing, Macdonald said.
"It''s good to have the support we have," Macdonald said. "I feel like in the just the past 18 months and the upgrades we''ve had, it''s shown in the field. This group has a renewed focus."
n Spaces remain for College Prep Camp: Spaces remain for MSU soccer''s College Prep Camp on July 16-18 on the MSU campus.
Registration forms, camp schedules, and additional information can be found at www.mstateathletics.com/camps, or by contacting MSU assistant coach Myranda Hill at email@example.com, or by calling 662-325-0204.
Under the instruction of the Bulldogs'' coaching staff, the camp will give each camper an insight as to what it''s like to be an MSU student-athlete.
Campers will be housed in the University''s state-of-the-art Zacharias Village, and the focus of the camp will be developing the technical and tactical skills of high school and club players ages 14-18.
The camp, which costs $240, will feature training, question and answer sessions with the coaching, academic and strength and conditioning staffs, and games.