By Maurice Patton
LYNNVILLE – The team David Parks took to Richland for Thursday’s District 10-A girls soccer matchup wasn’t the one that played the Lady Raiders to a draw three weeks ago, and the result wasn’t the one that he or his Culleoka squad wanted.
But the second-year Lady Warriors coach wasn’t – and won’t be – deterred in his “long game” goal.
“We played two eighth-graders. We’re loaded with freshmen. I’m really optimistic about the next two or three years,” Parks said following a 3-0 defeat. “I think they’re the standard we have to get to.
“They’re the Detroit Pistons to our Chicago Bulls.”
Drawing on the 1980s and early ‘90s NBA Eastern Conference rivalry, Parks feels like he can construct something similarly special at Culleoka – although his Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen may be elsewhere.
Sophomore twins Maddie and Mary Beth Norton left the team after two games to play travel soccer. Travel and high school schedules conflict, and TSSAA rules do not allow athletes to participate in both during the same season.
“We miss their contributions. They did what they needed to do,” Parks said regarding the sisters.
Maddie scored 17 goals as a freshman, helping Culleoka into the Region 5-A tournament semifinals a year ago.
“I think they’re a capable team, with or without the twins,” Richland coach George Witt said after improving to 4-1-1 (2-0-1) with the victory. “My hat’s off to the job David and his staff have done. They’re a very capable team. They held us scoreless in the second half.”
In the first half, though, the hosts got all the offense they’d need as Grayson Bailey put them on the scoreboard 13 minutes into the contest. The junior added another goal barely a minute later, and freshman Gabbi Alsup further extended the lead with eight minutes remaining in the period.
“We had a good push early,” Witt said. “Our passing was better. We had some critical outside passes and we worked the ball in, and we got great shooting.”
Richland, which advanced to the Class A state sectionals in 2019, has had some youthful contributors as well. Virginia Witt – the coach’s daughter – is one of five freshmen seeing significant playing time along with Alsup, Sara Woodard, Carlee Faulkner and Libby Mitchell.
“We call ourselves ’24 Strong’,” Witt said. “Everybody (on the 24-player roster) took the field and everybody contributed big minutes.”
That effort – and success – is what Parks and the Lady Warriors (2-4-1, 1-2-1) are chasing.
“I wasn’t sure what the culture was when I got here,” he said. “We were conditioning in June, as much as we could with the pandemic. That’s something they’d never done here.
“I’m trying to play the long game.”
Both teams travel to East Hickman for their next games – Richland on Saturday, Culleoka on Tuesday.
Zion still rolling: Ava Corbin’s third hat trick of the season – and second in as many games – was matched by Lilli Mai Fann, and Zion Christian defeated visiting Webb (Bell Buckle) 9-0 Thursday.
The Lady Eagles, who led 7-0 at halftime, got another two goals from Rivers Abshere and one from Sophia Elias.
Corbin has 17 goals – half the team’s total — through Zion’s 3-3 start.
At the net: Mt. Pleasant avenged an earlier homecourt loss to Hampshire, defeating the host Lady Hawks in straight sets Thursday. The Lady Tigers won 26-24, 25-22, 25-21.
Columbia Academy traveled Thursday to Franklin Road Academy and lost in four sets – winning the opener 25-23 before falling 25-14, 25-19, 25-21.
Visiting Brentwood defeated Independence in four sets (25-14, 18-25, 25-12, 25-23) in District 12-AAA play.