Head Coach Neil Macdonald Talks MSU Soccer

Mississippi State head soccer coach Neil Macdonald talks about what he has seen from his team during the first six days of practice.

During your first six days of practice what have you seen from your team?
"We are seeing a tremendous commitment from everybody. We have a lot of good young players. I would say that our technical ability has increased. We have a lot more speed as well as more depth off the bench. I would say there is a vast improvement over last year's squad."

Have any of your newcomers really surprised you have well they have played?
"Madison McKee has been a standout for me. She is a Mississippi girl (Clinton, MS). She likes a veteran when she out there with the eleven. She is so comfortable. She looks like she has great leadership qualities as well. We saw those qualities in her at the club level. But for her to be that mature is surprising.

"Katy Hoover (of Brookhaven, MS) has done a great job as well. She has been very busy and works tremendously hard away from the ball. She's also been a standout.

"I would also say that Rachel Wannek (Ontario, Canada) has played very well at center forward. She is going to be a great target for us.

"Those would be the main ones at the moment."

What are your thoughts about the veterans? Have they come back the way you want them to?
"Yes, absolutely. Hannah Tyler and Leanna Baldner are our captains and they have shown good leadership.

"And as a group, we saw a big change in the spring in their attitudes and their work ethic. We were excited with what we saw from them in the spring."

You have a lot of true freshmen on your squad, 11 to be exact. Has that changed the way you practice?
"We are playing a lot of 11 on 11 full field, which we have never really done before. But it's because we are trying to get everyone to understand roles and responsibilities as quickly as possible. I believe these freshmen are going to make an impact and we have to get them in the system quickly."

You've had two additions to your stadium, the combination press box/rest rooms/concession stand/stands which was added last season and the video replay board which was added this year. How much has that helped with your recruiting efforts?
"It's been massive. That shows a commitment from the administration. And parents and prospective student/athletes want to see that. We are very grateful and very excited about it."

How would you describe this year's team, especially considering its youth?
"The question marks for me with a young team are the physical presence on the field. Will we be aggressive? We will close balls? Will we make tackles? Those are the big question marks with the group right now. And we aren't going to know that until we get to gameday.

"Technically, we are stronger and faster at most positions. So, the level of soccer is better than it has been, which is exciting. Certainly we will retain possession better. The movement of the ball is better. Those are massive positives for us."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.

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