Murray learns game, goal quickly for ACCS

Published 12:03 am Tuesday, October 4, 2011

ERIC SHELTON/THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — ACCS’ Merritt Murray tries to keep the ball from Lamar’s Allison Justus during their soccer match last week against Lamar.

NATCHEZ — Adams County Christian School junior Merritt Murray didn’t know what she had accomplished the first time one of her kicks found the back of the net for the Lady Rebels’ soccer team in their 2011 season opener.

It wasn’t just the first game of the season for Murray, it was the first soccer game of her life, and as the ball found its way to her feet all she could think was to kick it at the net, she said.

“I was out there watching (the ball), and they kicked it to me, so I tried to get it in the goal,” Murray said. “I didn’t know what I did until (Lady Rebel player) Jordan Parker came up and hugged me.”

Murray had never touched a soccer ball until she attended the ACCS soccer camp in July, she said.

“(Coach) Jim Allgood kept nagging me about playing, and I went out and loved it,” Murray said. “I’ve always played sports, and I wanted to try soccer.”

Allgood said Murray’s athletic ability drew his attention.

“Her athletic skills are top shelf,” he said. “Her speed and agility give her all the tools, and her work ethic is fantastic.”

Murray, who has played basketball, softball, tennis and been a cheerleader in her time at ACCS, said her teammates were helpful and understanding about her lack of soccer knowledge.

“It was frustrating because all the other girls knew more about (soccer) than I did,” Murray said. “But it’s a lot of fun, and everybody was really welcoming. Going to all the practices has been really helpful.”

Murray said her experience with other sports helped her learn soccer.

“All sports are kind of alike,” she said. “You want to get more points. I just had to find out how the team works.”

After Murray’s first goal, she decided to set the bar high for herself, she said.

“My goal after the first game was to score seven goals, which is how many the team scored last year, and I did that,” she said.

Murray is sitting at seven goals on the season, with at least two more games to play.

Murray said she had a two-goal game this season against Veritas School that was special for two reasons. She wanted to match fellow first-year player Brandis White, who had netted a hat trick in the previous game, and she also wanted to lift the spirits of her teammates, because the Lady Rebels were trailing at halftime.

“Brandis had a hat trick the game before, and I wanted one too, but I didn’t get it,” she said. “We were down 3-0 at halftime and were just trying to get everyone pepped up, because we don’t want to get down. We started scoring but lost 5-4.”

Murray said she continues to get better and learn more about soccer. She learns from Allgood and her teammates at practice, she watches soccer on TV to learn more about the game and also gets help at home from her father, Bryant, and brother Bryce.

“I think my brother (helps me a lot),” she said. “He’s always been an athlete, and since I was little he’d help make me better. He played a lot of sports and when he comes home (from Mississippi College) he’s really helpful. He’ll go out and play tennis or kick the ball with me.”

Allgood said he sees improvement in Murray’s soccer awareness.

“It’s hard to believe she’s a first-year player,” he said. “She’s always around the ball, and she’s picked up many goals this year by being aggressive and attacking on defense and taking advantage of miscues on offense by the other team.”

Murray said she hopes to continue to improve and learn the game to prepare for her senior season.

“I want to practice more in the off season, and hopefully we will have the soccer camp again,” she said. “We have a really young team coming back for next year.”

ACCS made the playoffs this year in just its second season of girls’ soccer, and Murray said she hopes her team will be able to do some damage in the postseason.

“I hope we make it as far as we can in the playoffs,” she said.

Murray and the Lady Rebels will travel to Manchester Academy in Yazoo City for their first-round game at 4 p.m. today.