Missy Gators eye another title

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 16, 2001

[11/16/01]Returning nine starters from a team that won a state championship is supposed to be a reason to get excited.

For the Vicksburg High Missy Gators, however, it’s the two starters they lost that has them holding off on making celebration plans.

VHS still has Brandi Parker, who scored a Class 5A-best 36 goals last season. But the heart and soul of the Missy Gators, Courtney Chapman and Kim Griffin, graduated.

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VHS coach Kevin Manton has shuffled his returning players to new positions in an effort to fill the void, making for some uncertainty as they learn. It hasn’t shown so far, in a 12-0 win over Greenville and an 18-0 pasting of division foe Natchez, but may become more apparent later in the season with tough division games against Clinton and Warren Central.

“Losing those two seniors is not bad, but when you lose that experience and you’ve got girls that are playing, but haven’t played that long, it’s tough,” Manton said. “We’re there and we’re just losing two, but it’s not the same because Brandi’s out of position, Beth (Ashby) is playing somewhere she didn’t play last year, so is Laura (Peyton).”

Parker said the Missy Gators have to adjust to the loss of Chapman and Griffin, both all-state picks who went on to play college ball Chapman at Louisiana-Monroe and Griffin at Belhaven to be successful.

“We’re going to miss them, but we have to get over it and pull together as a team,” Parker said.

Manton’s adjustments started in goal, where junior Viola Howard was moved out to play in the field and ninth-grader Ashley Ragan and eighth-grader Megan Humphries were moved in.

“Our goalies are pretty good, they just need a lot more work,” senior Cassie Griffing said.

Howard will still see some playing time in net as the other two goalies learn, Manton said.

“(Howard’s) going to have to play for us in big ballgames … ,” Manton said. “She’s not a goalie, she’s an athlete. She makes up for what she doesn’t have in goalie skills with athletic ability … .”

In the field, every player has changed positions to make the team more well-rounded, Manton said. He said that without the changes, the choice was either a goal-scoring machine with little defense or a defensive team that barely scores enough to win.

“I could make one or two moves to beef up our defense, but I think that would hurt our offense,” Manton said. “It’s just trying to help us. To be a total team instead of just an offensive or defensive team and be strong both ways.”

The offensive push will be spearheaded by Parker, a sophomore who could threaten former Missy Gator star Kristin Chapman’s state record for goals. Parker’s play will be vital to VHS’ success, Manton said.

“Brandi’s going to have to come into her own at center half to give us that strength down the middle,” Manton said.

Although the Missy Gators are inexperienced in their new spots, Manton was quick to point out that the team has plenty of experience when it comes to winning and turning things around quickly.

VHS went 7-7-3 in 1999-2000 before winning its fourth state title in six seasons in 2000-01.

“I’ve lost four girls in the last two years, and this is still the nucleus of the team that finished 7-7-3 and then turned around and won the state championship,” Manton said. “They’ve seen us high and they’ve seen us low. They know what can happen.”