Picayune girls soccer’s young and experienced players ready to shine

Published 7:00 am Friday, July 19, 2019

Head Coach Edison Williams will be going into his fourth year in charge of the Picayune girls soccer team, and he’s seen the culture shift and improve with every passing year. Progress has been gradual for the squad, but the team is now nearing the level Williams has been aiming for.

“Every year we double our win total,” Williams said.

“We’ve improved, but we want to improve more.”

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The team has struggled with being able to physically compete with their opponents because of the youth on the roster the past couple of years. Williams said the core of the roster has had to play varsity soccer since they were in 7th grade because there was no middle school squad. The athletes weren’t lacking in technical skill, but when it came to the physical nature of the game some of the players had a hard time going up against older, stronger opponents. Also, the speed of play in high school increases significantly compared to the middle school games, which is another adjustment the incoming athletes had to make. However, the team is set to reap the benefits of those battles with the girls now having significant experience at the high school level. Additionally, a middle school program has been formed, and Williams said that will ease the transition for those athletes when transitioning to the high school program. The team mainly runs a 4-3-3 formation, but will sometimes transition to a 3-5-2. These systems are for the most part set up to clog the midfield and force the opponent out wide away from dangerous areas. The teams that use these set ups generally sit back on defense and then attack on the counter. However, Williams said that he’s lost a lot of starters on the backline, and because of that formation changes may occur.

“You have to adjust the system to the players,” Williams said.

The adjustments don’t end with the formation. Williams has added a variety of offseason workouts since he became the head coach. In the past there hadn’t been a true offseason program, and Stephens said that in order to compete with other teams the time must be put in during the summer months. The priority of these offseason workouts is to help the girls improve not only with their technical skills such as dribbling and passing, but also with their speed and strength as well. This time is also spent with the team trying to work together and develop chemistry with each other. Williams can use the offseason to work on formations and tactics, which allow the girls to be well versed in their roles come game time. Williams said he’s trying to lay the foundation now so that future players can benefit.

“I told them what I want to do is build a program, not a team,” Williams said.

“You’re building a program that can last.”

In order to do that, current players must make sacrifices so that the program can endure and still be successful in the future. However, that can be a hard sell to a senior athlete who will be gone in a year. Williams understands that, but he and his staff have seen that the girls are willing to put in the work for the betterment of the team.

“We talk about that sacrifice on the field and willing to commit to building a program,” Williams said.

“We want to build something that they can come back and see six years from now.”

Additionally, being a part of the squad allows the athletes to represent something bigger than themselves when they step on the field. It gives them opportunities they wouldn’t have otherwise, and that’s why Williams thinks it’s so important to have programs like this available in high school.

“It gives them a chance to build a legacy in high school,” Williams said.

“It’s an opportunity to create an identity for themselves, and I think it’s important for them to have that opportunity.”

The team has endured some tough times the past couple of years. However, Stephens says that in time the success will come and until then the athletes need to keep their heads up.

“I’m trying to get young ladies to be positive in the team,” Stephens said

“It’s not about the wins and losses it’s about the effort, the work, the teamwork.”

“There’s a lot of stuff that goes into this that doesn’t show up.”