November 9, 2018 10:10:04 AM
STARKVILLE -- Miranda Carrasco dreamed about playing soccer in the Southeastern Conference for as long as she can remember.
The 5-foot-3 defender from Cypress, Texas, made that dream a reality when she opted to graduate early from Cypress Woods High School in Texas and enroll early at Mississippi State.
It didn't matter to her that she was a freshman. The only thing Carrasco was concerned about was finding a way to get on the field.
"I worked really hard in the months before I came here in the spring. I knew I was going to come into the SEC, and it has always been my dream to play in the SEC, so now that I am here I want to expand my dream and do many wondrous things I know I can do and I am capable of. I can't wait to keep growing, showing, and improving."
Carrasco has done that in what has been a historic season for the MSU women's soccer program. At 4 p.m. Friday, MSU (9-6-2) will play host to Lipscomb (14-4-2) in the first round of the MSU Soccer Field. The match will be MSU's first appearance in the NCAA tournament.
Carrasco is part of a defense with goalkeeper Rhylee DeCrane and defenders Courtney Robicheaux, Kristen Malebranche, and Hailey Zerbel that has allowed only 16 goals for a program that earned its second-consecutive winning season for the second time in program history. Only DeCrane (1,566) and Robicheaux (1,507) have played more minutes than Carrasco (1,488).
Carrasco has started all 17 matches and is seventh on the team in scoring with seven assists. She is tied for fourth in the league in assists, and is tied for the lead among SEC freshmen.
Even though she has yet to score a goal, Carrasco has proven to be dangerous as an attacking player because she handles the Bulldogs' services and re-starts. She has developed a knack with her right foot for finding her teammates on set pieces or off corner kicks. As a result, MSU has scored 32 goals.
"She prepared better than everyone on the team, and she is a preparer," MSU coach Tom Anagnost said. "She is a very self-motivated kid. She is intrinsically motivated, and she is going to do the work when no one else is watching. I think that is what has made her impactful since day one here."
Carrasco credits coming from a disciplined family for helping her realize her goals. She said she took what Anagnost sent her prior to coming to Starkville and made sure she was in the best position when she arrive at MSU.
"I expanded on that and took each day, day by day, to get better. I worked really, really hard the months before I came in last semester.
"I know I am a hard worker, and I come from a really good family that taught me well, so that gave me the confidence to go in and pursue my talent," Carrasco said. "When I got here, since I worked so hard, I was one of the first to pass the test, and everyone around me was really sweet, which helped me gain a little more confidence."
Carrasco said she loves defending and attacking, which is why she loves playing right back. She said she also enjoys finding passes that relieve pressure or finding a teammate's head off set pieces to help fuel an offense that has scored 32 goals.
Earlier in her career, Carrasco said she was an attacking player, but she said one of her club coaches said her "speed" was why she was being moved to defender.
But Carrasco has flourished in that role. Malebranche said earlier in the season that Carrasco and Robicheaux help keep each other calm on the backline.
MSU junior forward MaKayla Waldner credits Carrasco for being a two-way player.
"Our wide players are a huge part of our attack because they get up, they get back. They run 90 minutes every time," Waldner said. "Miranda has been great. She has delivered so many good balls. She always is just a very consistent player. ... It is hard not to have faith in her because she is literally going to lay her body on the ground to save a goal or to help us out. She is just great. She is a great overall player and has really helped us out."
Anagnost said Carrasco is a competitive person and that he has been pleased with her development. He said her willingness to enroll early displayed how ready she was to make an impact on the program.
"I wish we had more like her," Anagnost said.
NOTE: Admission is free for MSU students with valid student ID. Tickets are available online at HailState.com/tickets or at the door. All seating is general admission. Tickets are $8 for adults and children ages 12 and under priced at $3.
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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