EC soccer teams begin season Friday at Southwest
Wednesday, August 20, 2014 1:00 AM
DECATUR - Expectations for success remain high for East Central Community College soccer teams as preparations continue for the season opener scheduled Friday, August 22 with Southwest Mississippi Community College.
The women's contest is set for 2 p.m. followed by the men's battle at 4 p.m. on the Summit campus.
The home opener has the Lady Warriors and Warriors hosting Mississippi Gulf Community College. Game times are 3 and 5 p.m.
Under second-year head coach Gray Massey, the Lady Warriors look to improve on last year's 6-10-1 mark.
Despite being a young team with 17 freshmen and just four sophomores, Coach Massey said this year's group has the potential to be 'very special."
"We have a lot of talent on this year's team, but I am even more impressed with the attitude and work ethic of these young women," said Coach Massey, who led Florence High School squads to three state titles prior to his arrival at EC. "There is no doubt in my mind that this group will strive to play the EC Way: Excellence with Class!"
The Lady Warriors will count on last year's leading scorer Ashlan Culberson of Brandon, along with freshmen Carrissa Stevens of Harrison Central, Lacey Field of Lewisburg High School, Tamia Cavett of Jackson Murrah and Addie Ambrosier of Magee, to provide goals.
The midfield will be anchored by Allie Turner of Horn Lake, Megan Yarbrough of Center Hill, Megan Parrish of Pascagoula, Gabby Stapp of West Harrison, Kayla Anderson of Florence, Kaitlyn Blue of South Jones and Katelyn Denton of Lewisburg.
The back line features returnee Tesia Keith of Corinth along with freshmen Dru Elkins of South Jones, Erin Golden of Petal, Christa Breazeale of Harrison Central, Brittany Rasco of Pascagoula, Pashien Kelley-Johnson of West Harrison and Mikayla May of Newton County.
In the goal will be redshirt freshman Alana Walker of Pascagoula and incoming freshman Rachel Davis of Petal.
On the men's side, longtime head coach Kenneth Thompson said he expects last year's success to carry over for the 2014 campaign, despite the fact a much younger squad will take the field.
The 2013 squad was hampered with injuries throughout the campaign yet managed to finish 8-8-1 overall and 2-5-1 mark in the MACJC North Division.
"The 2013 season was another exciting year of Warrior Soccer, as every single match was a battle to the final whistle," said Thompson, who begins his 16th year at the Warrior helm. "The injury bug took its toll....which affected our scoring potential...but defensively we were still very good all over the field."
For the second-straight year, a Warrior soccer player finished high in Region 23 balloting. Will Thompson placed fourth in the prestigious group, which also qualified the Newton County High School High School product as an NJCAA All-American nominee.
Thompson said this year's lineup includes a lot of new faces, as mostly sophomores saw action in 2013.
"However, there are several sophomores who contributed heavily or either prepared well in the offseason to be ready to contribute," said Thompson.
Returning starters include midfielder Jordan Alonso of Newton County, defender Dalton Smith of Florence and keeper Matt Sykes of Heritage Academy in Columbus.
"Jordan will play a key part in our ability to control the game," said Thompson. "Dalton spent most of his time last year at forward but this year he will be moving to outside back. His ability to move up the side on the attack as well as defend will help anchor the defense. Matt saw limited action last season but he has put in the work necessary to play at his best. How well he plays will be a key to our success."
Other players who saw significant playing time last year include midfielders Eliud Alvarez of Forest and Chase McNair of Neshoba Central.
"These two guys will have to continue providing strong sophomore leadership early in the season as the freshmen adjust to the college game."
Regarding the freshman class, Thompson said recruiting was a "challenge," as many quality players were also recruited by other colleges.
"However, we were able to get many of the players we originally wanted along with some outstanding late-period transfers," he said. "All in all the new players should provide a strong group."
Thompson said he expects to start "four or five" freshmen in the lineup.
Top newcomers include forward/keeper Jacob Johnson of Destrehan (La.) High School, defender Carlos Gutierrez and his brother Omar Gutierrez, both of Tupelo, defender Kellen Clark of Newton County and midfielder Jackson Oliver of Clinton.
"Jacob is an outstanding talent who can really score goals, and we hope he continue his success on the college level," said Thompson. "Omar and Carlos are both highly skilled players who can play the game well and not get rattled under pressure. Kellen is a smart player and will help anchor our new defense, which replaces all four starters. I have known Jackson a long time and have been impressed with his work rate. He always plays the game with a lot of passion."
Thompson also had praise for transfers Tyler Cook (Mississippi College), a defender from Daphne, Ala., and Landry Lofton (Southwest Mississippi Community College), a forward from Pascagoula.
"Both of these players are very talented and will have a large part in our team's success," Thompson said.
In analyzing this year's team, Thompson said fans should expect to see another traditional Warrior squad.
"We will be a highly-fit team that will play every match with emotion for the 90 minutes regardless of the score," he said. "This team also has more depth, so hopefully we can utilize more players without losing any quality of play."
Thompson added, "A major goal of this year's team is to once again earn top academic honors on the national level. This team is also highly focused on earning a playoff spot and working toward our first state title. It should be an exciting season for Warrior soccer and we hope many of our students and other supporters will take advantage of the opportunity to come see us play."
For more information, contact Coach Gray Massey (601-635-6234) or Coach Kenneth Thompson (601-635-6370). Their respective email addresses are firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.