Mississippi State head soccer coach Neil MacDonald talked a little about Thursday scrimmage, the first scrimmage for his squad."> Mississippi State head soccer coach Neil MacDonald talked a little about Thursday scrimmage, the first scrimmage for his squad.">

Neil MacDonald Talks About Thursday's Scrimmage

<img src="http://www.genespage.com/images/coaches/soccer/neilmacdonald.jpg" align="left"> Mississippi State head soccer coach Neil MacDonald talked a little about Thursday scrimmage, the first scrimmage for his squad.

Talk about your impressions from the first scrimmage.
"I thought that we did very well from a possession standpoint. We have worked the first week or so in our tactical sessions on movement off the ball, creating space. I thought we did a great job of doing that tonight. I was delighted with everything that I saw. We haven't worked on defense up to this point because we have a good defensive structure and we aren't going to change it. We feel good about our defense because we only allowed 18 goals last season, which is very good for college soccer."

Wasn't the goalie really good last season?
"(Former) Luisa (Marzotto) got a lot of press but she had a very, very good defensive system in front of her and it worked. Obviously, we have some inexperience in goal this year, but I think the defensive system will work."

After watching the scrimmage, are there any new players that will challenge for playing time this year?
"Definitely. Both Jennifer (Turpin) and Kevyn (Shelledy) have been outstanding. I thought that Danielle Smith from Mississippi did fantastic tonight. She is such a good athlete. She is strong and powerful running forward. She is lightning quick. She is incredibly strong and has a big heart. If you have a big heart, you go a long way. She will be a handful for teams this year."

Did it surprise you how well she did during the scrimmage?
"She has been doing well in practice. She just lacks a little bit of tactical awareness, but that is something that she can learn. I think, as the season progresses, you will see more and more from her."

Which veterans stepped forward tonight?
"(Senior) Karen Sandrik, our captain, always gives 9 out of 10 in practice everyday. And 9 out of 10 in games. She is so consistent. (Senior) Morgan McDonald is the same. I thought she was outstanding again. I can't remember in the time I've been here where those two girls have had a bad game."

After watching this scrimmage and watching the practices, do you think this team will be improved over last season's team?
"I think we are better offensively than we were last year. If we can keep the consistency with the defensive system, we should be in fairly good shape. I think we will be improved, but the flipside is you are going to have to bear in mind that our schedule is the hardest schedule that the school has ever played by a longshot. We have North Carolina and Southern California, and, for the first time, all 11 of the other SEC schools. It is going to be a difficult schedule with no easy games."

What are areas where you feel your team still needs to improve?
"I think our final ball in and our finishing ability in front of the goal need to be sharpen. Those two things are the hardest to put together. It's still early, so hopefully we will get there."

What is Brandi Parker's status? (Brandi is rehabing from knee surgery)
"She will start training (Friday)."

Do you think she will be able to play this year?
"I hope so. We are going to wait and see. We are not going to push her. She will be wearing an orange scrimmage vest and no one will be allowed to tackle her for the first few weeks. But we want to get her out here and get her in the rhythm again."

I saw a girl go hard to the ground during the scrimmage. Is she ok?
"Yes, we think so. Betty Ann Casey fell heavily. She kind of got undercut and her feet came out from beneath her. She probably hit the ground fairly hard and got a fright from it."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com (http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com), the source for Mississippi State sports on TheInsiders.com sports network on the internet. You can contact him by email at swindoll@genespage.com.

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