2010 All-County soccer|Hayden puts on the jets

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 10, 2010

There were times this season when it seemed everyone on the soccer field, except Tabitha Hayden, was standing still.

The Vicksburg High freshman would get the ball and weave through traffic with the precision of a finely tuned Ferrari. As defenders tried to knock her off the ball or steal it from her, Hayden zipped past.

Thirty yards. Forty yards. Fifty. It seemed she could keep it up all day. The only question was whether she’d beat the goal keeper at the end.

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More often than not, she did,

Hayden scored more than 20 goals this season, following up an eighth-grade campaign in which she scored 12. She capped her third season as a starter by earning The Vicksburg Post’s girls soccer player of the year award.

“She was always a player that could put her heart out there during a game. When nobody could push through, she’d always find a way to break through the defense,” Vicksburg coach David Case said. “She’s an awesome player. I really hope she can develop to be the glue that holds the team together.”

In her brief high school career, Hayden has already become one of the most exciting players around. Her combination of speed and dribbling skills have made her the latest link in a long chain of VHS greats like Kristin Gough, Brandi Parker and Diari Gilliam.

“I’m trying,” Hayden laughed when asked if she belonged in the same group as those players. “I’m going to get there. I’m trying to get my picture up on the wall” for a state championship.

To get a step closer — the Missy Gators reached the second round of the Class 6A playoffs this season — Hayden acknowledged there are still things she can do to improve her own game and the team. Among them are not making so many of those highlight-reel runs toward the goal. On several occasions this season Hayden dribbled past four or five defenders before taking a shot, covering half the field in the process.

“It’s getting all I can take. If I see a path, I’ll take it. But if I see someone open, I will pass it,” Hayden said. “I wouldn’t say it’s my role. I would just include myself as part of the team.”

Although the long runs are thrilling, Case said he’s talked to Hayden about trying to better work her teammates into the flow of the game.

Hayden has shown she can do more than score goals. In the 2008-09 season she had eight assists.

“I talked to her about being more of a quarterback than a receiver. We were on the right path, and that was coming by the time the season was over,” Case said. “She was a very exciting player to watch. That’s a very rare asset. At the same time, it can be a liability because the defense can focus on her. Hopefully stepping up her play up encourages other to step theirs up.”

Contact Ernest Bowker at ebowker@vicksburgpost.com