Vicksburg girls clash in SEC showdown

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 26, 2000

Ole Miss’ Kristin Chapman, left, and Mississippi State’s Lauren Hall pose after Wednesday’s game in Starkville. (The Vicksburg Post/MARK THORNTON)

STARKVILLE Lauren Hall has been leading the Mississippi State soccer team for four years.

Wednesday, she came within inches of propelling her team to its first Southeastern Conference Tournament.

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Hall’s hopes were derailed by a former teammate and close friend. Ex-Vicksburg High star Kristin Chapman and the Ole Miss Lady Rebels won a nail-biter after a pair of sudden-death overtimes, 0-0.

With State (7-12, 3-6 SEC) only needing to beat its archrival for a tournament spot, Hall couldn’t push any of her five shots past Ole Miss goalie Melinda Smith. The game ended in a tie, giving Chapman’s Lady Rebs the top spot in the SEC West and virtually ending a magnificent career for Hall.

Hall, a former St. Aloysius basketball standout who never played high school soccer, will have one more game against Tennessee-Chattanooga on Sunday.

“It’s gone by so fast,” said Hall, who was the Lady Bulldogs’ most valuable player the past two years. “It just now hit me that Here it is, we’re through.’ I’m gonna miss everybody more than the game.”

First-year Mississippi State coach Neil McGuire will certainly miss Hall. This season, Hall has had a pair of goals and four assists.

“We told our girls before the game started not to let No. 17 (Hall) get behind you,” Ole Miss coach Steve Holeman said.

She did on several occasions, but each team had a tough time generating any offense. Some of that can easily be attributed to Chapman, a former Vicksburg High standout who transferred to Ole Miss from Florida in August.

Chapman, two years younger than Hall, played some club soccer on the same team as Hall and the two were teammates in the 12-and-under league.

“Lauren and I have been friends for a long time,” said Chapman, who leads her defense, but has also scored two goals and had three assists. “She’s a very good player; a very athletic player.”

Hall had what looked like a sure goal with 13:39 left in the game, but Ole Miss’ Jessica O’Neill, playing sweeper, kicked it out at the last second. Two more shots over the final minutes of the game failed to find the net.

“We just couldn’t get it in the back of the net,” Hall said.

Chapman has started all 18 games for the Lady Rebels (13-5, 6-3) this year, mostly on defense, but she has scored a pair of goals. She leads the SEC West champions into the tournament in Athens, Ga.

Florida, Chapman’s former team, is clearly the team to beat, she said. The Lady Gators beat Ole Miss 5-1 earlier in the season.

“They beat us pretty badly,” Chapman said. “They have some huge girls and are so athletic soccer players. They are definitely the team to beat, but they are beatable.”

Ole Miss lost to Chapman’s Florida team in the SEC Championship game last year at Florida.

For Hall, her college career will come to an end after one more game, but she plans on trying to take her game to the next level. A women’s professional soccer league is forming and she said she’ll at least try out for it.

“Hopefully, after I graduate, I’ll be able to continue my athletics,” said Hall, a 5-foot-4 midfielder. “I’ll try.”

McGuire will lose seven seniors off this year’s team, but Hall’s departure will hit him hardest.

“She’s a very integral part of our offense,” said McGuire, a Scotland native. “She’s a tremendous player and there is no doubt that her influence on this team will be missed. Her leadership and athletic ability are first class and it’s very hard to replace someone like that.”