Hinds eyes elusive state title|[10/19/06]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 19, 2006

RAYMOND – For all of their success the last two seasons – a Region XXIII championship, a 24-7-1 record, and a regular spot in the top 10 of most national polls – there is still one glaring hole in the resume of the Hinds Community College Lady Eagles.

That would be a state championship, an honor that escaped them last season. It’s also a hole the Lady Eagles can fill this weekend, when they head to Pearl River for the MACJC state tournament.

Hinds enters the tournament with a load of talent, experience, and confidence. It has lost only one game to a Mississippi team this season and boasts a roster with 12 sophomores itching to atone for last year’s shortcoming.

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Winning a state title – not a region or national championship – is the Lady Eagles’ priority, sophomore midfielder Miranda Hunt said.

&#8220We’ve got to focus on state right now. That’s the important goal for the moment,” Hunt said.

Led by five starters from Warren County’s high school programs – Hunt, Emily Coker, Beverley Simmons, Mallory Wells and Keri McGowan – Hinds (12-3) has steamrolled nearly every opponent it has faced this season, especially within the state.

Hinds is 7-1 with six shutouts against Mississippi teams this season. Northwest Mississippi is the only state team to beat the Lady Eagles and one of only two teams to score a goal against them. The teams split a pair of games, with Hinds winning 3-2 at Senatobia on Sept. 12 and Northwest taking a 2-1 victory in Raymond on Oct. 6.

Hinds also allowed a goal in an 8-1 win over East Mississippi in the regular-season finale last Friday.

Former Warren Central goal keeper Coker has led the strong defensive effort, with a 0.658 goals against average that ranks 11th in the nation. Coker’s backup is Humphries, a former Vicksburg High standout.

Hinds coach Kori Crutchfield said that while the defense has been solid, she’d like to see a few more goals. The Lady Eagles had 36 shots but only two goals in a win over Itawamba last week and scored two goals or less in four of their last six games.

&#8220The defense has definitely been a strong point. One thing we have been struggling on is finishing. But we have been maneuvering the ball well,” Crutchfield said.

Crutchfield has also steered the Lady Eagles’ ship well.

The first-year coach who played at Hinds and Vicksburg High inherited a loaded team steeped in tradition. Hinds won seven straight state titles before stumbling last season and has lost just 19 games in nine seasons.

The women’s soccer program has also excelled in the classroom, with 20 NJCAA Academic All-Americans over the last decade. The combination of academic and athletic success is a hard one to maintain, Crutchfield said.

&#8220It’s a tradition that needs to be upheld,” said Crutchfield, who was a NJCAA All-American on the field in 1999. &#8220There’s always pressure, because not only has the team done well on the soccer field but in the classroom. That’s a lot of pressure right there.”

Coker said the coach has done a good job so far, though. By taking suggestions from her experienced players and getting on the field to practice with them, Coker said that Crutchfield has ably taken the reins from former coach Patti Johnson.

&#8220One of my favorite things that Patti did, and she does is she gets out there and plays with us. She makes it fun,” Coker said. &#8220She’s real good about listening to what we have to say.

&#8220She puts her input in and we pull it all out.”