Mary Persons boys soccer team is off to a 2-2 start in its third season under coach Andrew Stevick. Two weeks back, the team placed 3rd in the Jag Cup hosted by Spalding. That tournament was followed up by a matchup against former region rival Perry on Feb. 9 which the guys lost 6-2. The Dogs were supposed to play ACE on Friday, Feb. 12, but that game was delayed due to rain. The team is now 2-2 overall and 1-0 in Region 2-AAA after beating Upson-Lee in the Jag Cup. Despite losing six seniors this past year, including scoring leader Julian Rivera, Stevick says his young team has the talent to go far in this new region.
“When you look at a roster, losing six seniors sounds like you’d be in a rebuilding phase. But I actually like this team a lot. We’ve got a strong junior class right now that has really stepped up.” Mary Persons switched regions this school year from AAAA to AAA, which Stevick says is a less competitive region for boys soccer.
“We’re no longer facing soccer powerhouses like Perry and Spalding. Now we’re playing teams like Central, Upson, Crisp County and Americus-Sumter. Our team should make the playoffs in this region. That’s a primary goal for us.” A lot of the team’s players have never seen a playoff game. Even so, Stevick believes the team can be the #1 or #2 seed in the region and host in the first round of the playoffs. The guys will need to be top four in the region to advance. Top region competitors in AAA include Peach County, Jackson and Pike County. Stevick says if MP can beat two of those three, the Dogs will advance to the playoffs. If the Dogs beat all three, they’ll win the region. The Dogs first big region matchup against Peach County will be held at home on March 12.
Due to the COVID outbreak last year, like all the other 2020 spring sports, MP soccer came to sudden and disappointing ended on March 13 after just six regular season games. It was the end of the line for six seniors who invested years with the team. Stevick says it was tough on the seniors to end such a promising season so abruptly, but he hopes last year taught the younger guys to appreciate the sport more and the opportunity they have right now.
The team has three seniors this year, Garrison Walker, Ethan Fossum and newcomer Ray Shannon. Walker, who’s been with the program for six years, is now a team captain and a great role model one and off the field. Stevick says Walker uses his speed and skill in tandem to create and score goals.
Fossum, the other senior, is a transfer from Morgan County who started playing for the Dogs last year before the season was cut short. Stevick says he’s really grown into a great player and has built chemistry with the rest of the team.
“Fossum really enjoys playing with these guys and we can expect a lot of goals out of him.” The Dogs’ junior class this year of seven is very strong and is made up of many players that have been on the team since they were freshmen. Junior Tripp Shipman is the team’s other captain, and Evan Miller and Asher Dingmore are two skilled junior athletes that are unmatched in the mid-field according to Stevick. As far as underclassmen go, Stevick says sophomores Dawson Dell and Chance Wiggins will be seeing high quality minutes in all the upcoming games. The Bulldogs won’t have keeper Aubrey Peterman this season so junior Jordan O’Quinn and senior Ray Shannon, a first-year player at MP, will share time at keeper.
Stevick is still ironing out the team’s starting lineup. So far, he’s been running a three-five-two formation with three players in the back, five in the mid-field and two up front.
“We’re still figuring out what lineup works best but with six games in, we’re close. I’m very pleased with the team’s performance so far. The games we’ve lost have been against great opponents. In order for this team to win the region, we’ll have to face great opponents. By playing a bunch of high level teams, we’ll be ready when Peach County, Jackson and Pike County come along.”
MP is trying to rebuild a boys soccer team that used to compete in the playoffs every year. Stevick is hoping for his first winning season as coach. MP was 5-12-1 in 2019 and of course 2020 was cut short while MP was 3-4.
Mary Persons next game is at home against Stratford Academy on Wednesday, Feb. 17 at 7:30 p.m.