There will be a lot of new faces on the soccer pitch for the East Central Community College women’s soccer team in 2018 as the Lady Warriors look to return to the state playoffs after a one-year absence.

Among those new faces is first-year head coach Ryan Joiner, who officially took over the team in June after winning three Mississippi High School Activities Association state championships from 2013 to 2016 as head boys’ coach at St. Stanislaus College in Bay St. Louis. For the past two seasons he was the head girls’ soccer coach at his alma mater Ocean Springs High School.

Joiner inherits a program that competed in the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges state playoffs three straight seasons before missing out on the postseason in fall 2017.



Joiner doesn’t have long to get to know his team. The players reported for preseason practice on Monday and play their first match Saturday when Southwest Tennessee Community College visits Decatur for an 11 a.m. match.

Not everyone will be new to the team this season. There are five returners from last year’s squad who all saw time as starters in some capacity. The veterans will be counted on to provide leadership for the freshman class in training and games.

While most of players will be new to each other, Joiner says there are some “very technically gifted players” on this year’s team and he can’t wait to see which players get slotted into the starting lineup.

Key positions gone from last year’s East Central team include goalkeeper Sarah Gilliland, now at Mississippi University for Women, and leading scorer Ashley Langham, who will play for William Carey University this fall.

Among the veterans back for 2018 is Carrington Payne, a midfielder from Richland who started three games a year ago. Backup goalkeeper Jordan Havens of Horn Lake also returns and will compete for a starting spot.

Among the first-year players expected to contribute are three from overseas. Midfielder Lia Richardson and forward Leah Anderson are both from England, while forward Bethany Hand joins the team from Dublin, Ireland. Forward Macey Spencer, who played for state champion Florence High School last year, will be counted on for her goal scoring, something that the Lady Warriors had trouble doing last season. Emily Pitts from Pearl High School will compete with Havens for time in goal.