Hornets go down swinging in MHSAA soccer playoffs
Published 10:27 pm Tuesday, February 6, 2024
LOYD STAR — Soccer season ended Tuesday night for Loyd Star. The Hornets went down fighting but did not have the quality needed to defeat private schools Sacred Heart in the girls game or St. Patrick in the boys game.
Loyd Star girls fell 6-1 to Sacred Heart to finish the season 16-6 on the season. Emma King scored the lone goal for the Hornets to make it 2-1 at the time. Even when Sacred Heart scored goals to put the match away the Hornets continued to play hard. Head Coach Jordan Lea did his best to comfort the girls after the loss.
“I’m extremely proud of how you never quit. When things get tough and adversity hits you will take this lesson and get through it,” Lea said. “You had a really good year. You did what you set out to do. Wish we could go longer. I would go to war with you any day of the week. You have been working hard and the hard work got you this far.”
He reminded the team how much the program has transformed in the past four years. Loyd Star will lose one senior. Abby Burnette, who signed with Co-Lin Community College to play softball, will graduate in May.
She was in tears after the match as were a few of her teammates. Her words to the team after the match was that she had never played for a squad as close knit as this one. Burnette hugged assistant coach Scott Leggett and Lea.
“This team just shows so much passion for the game and for one another. We win as a team and lose as a team,” Burnette said. “We are close and play for each other. We play for Coach Lea. We didn’t want to get mercy ruled tonight and we had never gotten mercy ruled under him. We didn’t want to start today. We didn’t want any regrets and wanted to leave everything on the field.”
Loyd Star left everything on the field and found more energy in the tank to finish out the match. Lea said he has always known his girls could play hard and they showed it in the loss.
Burnette still has one more athletic season left before her time at Loyd Star comes to an end. The senior will play softball for the Hornets but she still had a few words of encouragement for her younger teammates.
“Cherish every moment. Every year you think you have another one and the next thing you know you are in this moment. You won’t get to step on a soccer field again,” Burnette said. “This wasn’t the last-last season yet, I have one more season of Loyd Star sports.”
In the boys match, Loyd Star held St. Patrick to three goals for 65 minutes of the game. The hornets conceded the fourth goal with about 10 minutes left in the match and continued to work hard to keep the score tight.
Loyd Star generated some chances on goal but it was clear that St. Patrick had more quality in touches, passing, shooting and moving off the soccer ball. Lea told the boys after the loss that the score showed how far the team had come.
He said the program had always been mercy ruled by the private schools but this year they played a full match. The season was nothing for the Hornets to hang their head about either. Loyd Star went 18-4-1 and won a district title for the first time in program history.
“It’s a testament to how far this program has come. Your dedication and commitment has turned it around,” Lea said. “I’ve enjoyed every moment of this year. You mean a lot to this program. Seniors, every success moving forward is not just these guys but you played a role in it.”
Loyd Star stepped up to the challenge of playing a quicker, more technically sound side and made life difficult for St. Patrick. Lea said it showed how they won’t back down and told the team they can apply the lesson to moments when they are faced with adversity.
Lea told the team it was some of the best senior leadership he has ever seen on the team. Sophomores Brody Thibodeaux, Jamisyn Kelly and Cooper Creel are promising components of the team. Seniors Nathan Mills, Jaden Lea, Caleb Smith, Caden White, James Goodwin, Dalexis Gonzalez and Cooper Reed all played a role in the program’s great year.
Goodwin has probably come the furthest of all the players on the Hornets. The defender covers a lot of ground with his athleticism but really improved in his control of the ball and reading the game. Lea said Goodwin had always relied on his athletic talent but flipped a switch this season.
“He realized his athletic ability wasn’t enough. He has been dedicated. He didn’t miss a summer practice,” Lea said. “I wish everyone was dedicated like James. He set a great example on how to come in here, work hard and to not make excuses.”
Lea’s younger brother Jaden transferred to Loyd Star from Brookhaven Academy to play his final season with his brother. Jaden said it was a sweet opportunity.
“You couldn’t ask for a better season than this. It has been a blessing to play for my brother,” Jaden said. “This team had the same love for the game and intensity as BA did. I’ve had a good soccer career and I’ve enjoyed it on both teams.”
Jordan said he relished the season. The older brother has coached his younger brother since he was in the fifth or sixth grade.
“I knew eventually it would end but he is my baby brother. It was amazing being able to coach him. It is just a special bond,” Jordan said. “If I could do it again I would. He is special to this team and me. At the same time, he is an easy player to coach. We would work together over the weekends.”
He said he isn’t sure what he will do after high school but will likely head on to college. His message to the younger guys is simple.
“Always work hard and communication is key. Try to kick with your left foot too,” Jaden said. “I will miss the intensity. If you are the goalie you are the last man standing. It feels great to make a save.”