Richards helped Lady Flashes win in season filled with change

Published 7:55 am Sunday, March 31, 2019

For three seasons, Brantlee Richards enjoyed her brief flurries on offense but was certainly not counted on to put the ball in the net very often. Her job was to be a guard dog on the back line, to stop opponents from scoring.

That, along with a lot of other things, changed last summer.

St. Aloysius’ three leading scorers all left the program. A new coach, Jessie Tate, took over for longtime leader Scott Mathis, and she made some tweaks to both tactics and personnel.

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It was a scary time for Richards, who was suddenly called upon to fill the unfamiliar dual roles of both senior leader and offensive weapon.

“When we found out we were getting a new coach it was kind of scary. You think you’re going to be able to do it, and then you get told you’re going to have a new coach and that freaks a lot of people out,” Richards said. “Miss Tate did really good all year. She’s a want to be happy person, and I need to sometimes be yelled at.”

Most of the time when Tate yelled at Richards, it seemed to be joyful. Richards scored 10 goals, assisted on five others, and became the point person during the Lady Flashes’ run to their second MAIS Class AAA championship in four seasons.

For all of that, Richards is the 2019 Vicksburg Post girls’ soccer Player of the Year.

“In ninth grade it felt great to be on a championship team and play on it. To lead a championship team is a completely different thing,” Richards said. “To be able to go to school and people look at you and say you led them to the championship is an amazing feeling to know you actually helped out.”

Besides the coaching change, the Lady Flashes’ lineup underwent a dramatic makeover after they reached the Class AAA semifinals during the 2017 season.

Mary Ranager (graduation), Madelyn Polk (transferred to Warren Central) and Ann Elizabeth Farthing (moved away) all left the team. They combined for 53 goals and 44 assists during the 2017 season and left a gaping hole at the front of the formation.

“We have no offense. So we had to step up,” Richards recalled thinking.

Richards had played defense for three seasons, including on the 2015 Class AAA championship team. She, along with fellow senior Anna Katherine Beauchamp and freshman Elizabeth Theriot, soon became the team’s primary offensive weapons and combine for 21 goals and 12 assists this season.

Richards, Beauchamp and defender Lexi Varner were the only seniors on the roster.
Making things even more difficult was Richards’ busy personal schedule. She is on St. Al’s softball team and cheerleading squad, which also compete during the MAIS’ fall season that runs from August to October.

Richards juggled the three activities, mostly playing only games in softball and soccer and practicing when she sould.

“I never went to practice. I mostly showed up for games,” Richards said. “That was always hard, because I never practiced with the girls. I had told my cheer and softball team that soccer was my No. 1 sport.”

Richards said the chemistry she had with Beauchamp, a longtime friend and teammate, smoothed things over on the soccer field.

“I’ve always thought I was a defensive player. (Assistant coach Johnny Beauchamp) came to me and said, ‘Look, you and Anna Katherine have been playing since you were babies together and work so good together,’ so about midseason they moved both of us up top and it took off,” Richards said. “Anna Katherine gave me a lot of opportunities, because she has had this in the past. She scored a lot of goals, so she wanted this to be my year. I’m thankful for her.”

The Lady Flashes finished 10-3-1 and beat Bayou Academy 1-0 in overtime in the state championship game. Richards had two goals in a semifinal win over Park Place to get them to the finals.

St. Al was 3-3-1 at one point, but Richards said a formation switch and a couple of key wins got them rolling toward the title.

“At the beginning of the year, we thought we might not be so good this year. After we switched our formation we started beating people and doing good,” she said. “The first time we went to Central Hinds, we lost. So when they came here for the second district game we knew we had to win this. We just had to put our minds to it.”

Vicksburg Post girls soccer Players of the Year
2019 – Brantlee Richards, St. Aloysius
2018 – Mary Ranager, St. Aloysius
2017 – Mikayla Banks, Vicksburg
2016 – Sara McDaniel, St. Aloysius
2015 – Mikayla Banks, Vicksburg
2014 – Mikayla Banks, Vicksburg
2013 – Tabitha Hayden, Vicksburg
2012 – Lindsey Barfield, Warren Central
2011 – Riley Griffith, St. Aloysius
2010 – Tabitha Hayden, Vicksburg
2009 – Rebecca Wilson and Diari Gilliam, VHS
2008 – Kristine Fischenich, Warren Central
2007 – Mary Clare Scurria, Warren Central
2006 – Andrea Harrison, St. Aloysius
2005 – Emily Coker, Warren Central
2004 – Brandi Parker, Vicksburg
2003 – Brandi Parker, Vicksburg
2002 – Brandi Parker, Vicksburg
2001 – Courtney Chapman, Vicksburg
2000 – Courtney Hubert, Warren Central
1999 – Kristin Chapman, Vicksburg

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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