MERIDIAN, Miss. -- Meridian Community College soccer teams have their eyes on the prizes for this upcoming season said Coach Mike Smith.
And it will be a building year, Smith noted. “We have a lot of new players for both teams and both teams are young,” he said.
The soccer action starts with two pre-season matches with an exhibition games on Friday, Aug. 17, with both Men and Lady Eagles vying against East Central Community College. The ladies match begins at 5 p.m.; the men follow at 7 p.m. The team remains at the home soccer pitch for Eagle Day on Aug. 18 with the games starting at 5 p.m. for the women and 7 p.m. for the men. The Eagles return home to Smith Field to play the first home game of the regular season on Aug. 22 when the teams battle Holmes Community College. The Lady Eagles play at 5 p.m.; the men play at 7 p.m.
Additional August matches are Aug. 25 with Andrew College; Aug. 26 with ASA Miami (women); Aug. 26 with Daytona State (men); and Aug. 28 with Northwest Community College.
When September rolls around, the teams will play Columbia State Community College (Sept. 1); Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College (Sept. 4); Pearl River Community College (Sept. 7); Southwest Community College (Sept. 11); Jones County Junior College (Sept. 14); Andrew College (Sept. 18); Motlow State Community College (Sept. 21); Oxford of Emory (Sept. 21); Dyersburg State (Sept. 23); Itawamba Community College (Sept. 23); Itawamba Community College (Sept. 27) and Angelina College (Sept. 30).
October action includes contests between Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College (Oct. 5); Pearl River Community College (Oct. 9); Southwest Community College (Oct. 12); and Jones Junior College (Oct. 15). State tournament play is set for Oct. 24-29.
“The men’s goal is to try to get back to the postseason,” Smith said. Noting it was a winless season in 2017, Smith said, “it was a very tough year last year for the guys. So, we are wanting to get off to a good start.”
With the new season comes new players and the Eagles will have new team members in both programs. Key incoming players for the men’s team are Baylor Little, Jonathan Blackledge, Hayden Brett and Marcelo Alves. Little, midfielder, is from Florence; Blackledge, goalkeeper, is from Laurel; Brett, midfielder, is from Pass Christian and Alves, defender, is from Brazil.
Key returners for the men are Yorch Atencio, defender, of Laurel; Henry Shade, defender and team captain, of Laurel; Josh Cochran, midfielder, from George County; and Ryan Dedeaux, defender and team captain, from Brandon.
The Lady Eagles’ goal is to capture the Region 23 title. “The girls had a very good team last year but struggled to score. But I feel like we are much stronger on the attacking side this season. We were right there with the top teams last season, but just never could get over that hump,” Smith said.
Key incoming players for the women are Mia Mugford, forward, from England; Lotta Raap, forward, from Australia; Emma Boswijk, forward, from Holland; Ellisha Clough, central midfielder, from England; Mara Shelton, midfielder, from Philadelphia; and Hanna Caldwell, midfielder from Brandon.
In addition, other Lady Eagles who will have an impact on the team will be key returners Lexi Fielder of Richland, Celeste Boswell and Clair Campbell, both from West Lauderdale. “Lexi started every game last season as defender, and she is team captain this year,” Smith said. Boswell, “is the anchor for the defense, and she is also a team captain this season,” he added. Campbell, too, also started every game last year for the Lady Eagles. She led the team in goals last season and is also a team captain this year, Smith noted.