2009 Mississippi State Soccer Preview
Mississippi State is not currently one of the elite programs in the SEC when it comes to women soccer. In fact, that may actually be a fairly significant understatement. The team has struggled mightily in recent seasons to string together consecutive periods of consistent play, and the record that has been a result of the struggles has not, in general, been pretty. The 2008 campaign featured an overall record of five wins against 15 losses and featured a similarly discouraging, if not more, record of zero and 11 in the SEC.
What has to be considered even more troubling than the overall record for Lady Bulldogs fans is the complete lack of competitiveness in the Southeastern Conference. Indeed, the team managed only six goals in its 11 Southeastern Conference games and in losing all 11, managed to be shut out six times. While there were indeed some highlights, particularly to be found on the non-conference slate, including a dominating 8-0 victory over Nicholls State, when all is said and done, most teams in the SEC judge their performance is not on the whole, but rather, as to how they performed within the conference. If that standard is to be used in this case, Mississippi's State's 2008 season was an abject failure.
The Lady Bulldogs had a difficult time amassing offense in 2008. The team only managed one player in double digits, that player being Kevyn Shelledy, who had 10 total points on four goals. Beyond Shelley, no other player managed more than eight points total and only one other player had four goals (Tarah Henderson). Clearly the lack of any sizable offensive threat on this team was a fundamental flaw to its chances of any prolonged success over the course of the season. Goalkeeper Taryn Holland did her best to try to keep games within reach, allowing 1.98 goals per game but the performance was nowhere near enough given that instability within the offense.
The Lady Bulldogs of Mississippi State began play in 1995. That season was one of struggles and adaptation. The team went 7-10 overall, and only managed 1-7 in the SEC. However the down spell did not last too long, as 1996 and 1997 both brought winning records back to the Lady Bulldogs. 1998 and 1999 led to two additional losing seasons however, and that ultimately led to head coach William Findlay stepping down following the 1999 season.
The Lady Bulldogs in the following years played better but still inconsistently. In 2000, the team struggled with another sub .500 season. However, in 2001 the program took a major step forward, winning the SEC Southern Division and amassing a 13-8 record overall (5-4 in the SEC). The 2003 and 2004 teams had mediocre seasons in which the team hovered around .500 most of the time. However in the years since then the team has taken yet another significant step backwards, and has been routinely situated near the bottom of the SEC.
It remains to be seen whether Mississippi State will be able to claw its way back among the competitive teams in this extremely competitive conference. It certainly looks like it's going to be a little bit of a climb to get there, and it doesn't seem that this program has the track record of success that some of the other now faltering programs do. However, soccer is a constantly evolving sport and while it takes time to build back, it doesn't always take a lot of time. The Bulldogs, with some smart coaching, could be back sooner than people think.
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