Youth soccer competition brings out big crowd
By By Fredie Carmichael/The Meridian Star
June 17, 2001
If you were driving down Old Highway 80 going north on Saturday, chances are it probably took you a while to reach your destination. That was due in large part to the flock of soccer enthusiasts that converged to the Jaycee Soccer Complex in Meridian for the 2001 State Games.
Automobiles parked on the side of the road stretched half a mile around the complex. Most vehicles were coated with shoe polish writings declaring their team as No. 1, or gold medal bound. A sea of canopies and portable easy-fold chairs filled with competitors and their families swarmed the 10 fields at the complex.
The Jaycee complex was just one of four sites that hosted the 2001 youth soccer competition. The under-8, under-10, and under-12 boys and girls competed at the complex.
Kate Griffin, Meridian High School, and the Northeast soccer complex were also tournament sites of this year's games.
An abundance of games ended in ties on Saturday at the Jaycee complex due to the intensity of competition.
The Meridian Ice boys won a big game against a quality Pearl team mid-way through the day to keep their medal round hopes alive.
Meridian's Under-10 Thunder team was also in a must-win situation by late afternoon on Saturday. The Thunder got a 1-0 shutout over Biloxi early in the day before fighting to 0-0 tie with Clinton's CSA United. In the game with CSA, the Thunder had 9 shots on goal to CSA's 3, but couldn't punch it in.
And bow up they did. Both squads resembled high school teams as they fought tooth and nail for every ball. On a play early in the second period, Meridian's Nate Hodges halted a CSA scoring opportunity as he rushed to the sideline to cut-off a CSA player. As he caught up with the fast-breaking player, he leaped into the air to head the kicked ball out-of-bounds, ending the threat.
Meridian missed a scoring opportunity with less than a minute left in the contest as Michael Crowe's shot on goal just missed the left corner. A slew of Thunder supporters gasped in disbelief as the ball was a mere foot from going in the net.
Crowe pointed out the pressure the kids are under to perform well in front of a big crowd. "A lot a times the kids don't show their full potential because of all that pressure… We got a real good team but we haven't showed our stuff yet."
The State Games decided to make a rule change this year allowing the under-8 division to play full-length games rather than half-field games. Many organizers were eager to see the response on Saturday.
Assistant coach of the Meridian Blue Angels' under-8 team, Perry Gower, said that many of the girls practiced on the bigger field to prepare for the this weekend's games.
Medal rounds today
The medal round games begin today at 10:30 a.m. in the under-8 through under-12 boys and girls divisions at the Jaycee Complex. The under-14 and under-16 division are set to began at 9 a.m. at Kate Griffin, MHS, and the Northeast Complex.
Fredie Carmichael is a staff writer for The Meridian Star., call him at 693-1551, ext. 3228 or E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.