Baby Gators prepping for State Games

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 24, 2003

[6/19/03]For the Vicksburg Baby Gators under-8 soccer team, only a few games stand between them and a state championship.

With wins over Greenville, Tupelo and a fellow Vicksburg team and a tie against Greenwood at the Northern District divisional tryouts in Greenwood, the Baby Gators emerged with a gold medal and a spot among the final eight teams in the state, at the State Games.

The State Games start on Friday in Meridian.

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The eight teams will be divided into two brackets, and each team will play each other within the bracket before the top teams emerge. The best team from each bracket will play each other for the gold medal, with the losing team receiving the silver. The two second-place finishers from each bracket will square off for the bronze medal.

Baby Gators coach Dorie Walsh said she thinks her team will do well based on the success they’ve had up to this point.

“Vicksburg has never, ever had a team go this far,” she said.

Two teams were selected from the North, two from the South and two from the Central. Meridian also received one team in the championship for hosting it, and the final spot was a wild card berth for a team from any region. Greenwood, which placed third in the state last year, advanced from the North along with the Vicksburg squad.

The Baby Gators are a compilation of some of the best area soccer players in the age group.

Walsh said she and her husband Tim coached five girls in the regular season 4-on-4 league, but they needed to pick up more players since the summer tournaments featured 7-on-7 play.

“The five we originally had were good,” Walsh said. “Then, my husband and I watched a lot of local games and picked basically an all-star team from the Vicksburg area.”

The original five Tabitha Hayden, Destinee McCleary, Katelyn McCormick, Jazmine Walker and Allison Walsh were joined by five new teammates in Ashley Boatman, Kara Martin, Heather Middleton, Paige Pellerin and Korri Wells.

The ten girls, who practice three times a week, only got in six weeks of preparation before competition heated up, and Walsh said it took a lot to convince them to play together.

“At this level it’s different,” she said. “They have to work together as a team. We told them it doesn’t matter who skips the ball in. We had to teach them to pass it around because they all wanted to shoot it.”

All the hard work has paid off as they now have a chance at winning the state championship.

“I think we have a fairly good shot,” Walsh said. “We’ve played against some of the teams (at state) in tournaments before and beat them.”