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Friday, Aug. 26, 2016

McClung sets bar for girls soccer

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Caroline McClung
SIKESTON - Just three years ago, the Sikeston girls soccer program was beginning its first season.

Now, they have their first college signee.

Sikeston senior Caroline McClung recently signed a national letter of intent with Missouri Baptist to play soccer.

"She's really worked hard," said Sikeston head coach Derrick Long. "She's put in a lot more effort than some of the other girls. After practice she goes and runs and she stays after and takes shots. I know she played a lot in the offseason. It's good for her and good for our program."

McClung has been a starter for the Lady Bulldogs the last two seasons and started part time as a sophomore in the program's first season.

So when the school announced it would start up a girls soccer program, McClung knew it was an opportunity she couldn't pass up.

"That was pretty exciting when they started up the girls team," said McClung. "I was wanting to play on the boys team, but I didn't think I'd get much playing time. So I was excited to hear we were getting a girls team."

The sport of soccer was in its fledgling stages even when McClung was younger, but she still competed in YMCA leagues for five years and competed in summer leagues through junior high.

So with a small bit of experience with soccer growing up, Long was somewhat surprised that she could contribute so quickly.

"She pretty much picked it up her sophomore year," said Long. "She hadn't played a lot prior to that. But when we had the team, she started playing a lot that summer before when we had open fields. She picked it up pretty fast. Eventually I saw that she had some talent. She's definitely one of our leaders on this team."

McClung, a 5-foot-10 midfielder for the Lady Bulldogs, also projects at that position in college.

"She's tall and a lot of taller girls in college play defense," said Long. "I think she can play anything. She needs to work on her speed and I'm sure they'll have a pretty good conditioning program for her to get a little faster. I talked to their coach and he's pretty enthused about her coming."

Long also said she plays with a reckless abandon at times, sacrificing her body for the team.

"Her biggest strength is she's real good in the air, mainly with her height," said Long. "She's kind of fearless in the air, anytime a ball's up there she'll go get it. She's also got a pretty nice shot. Her main role is to win the ball in the midfield and get it up to our forwards.

"She's got a good head and good vision on the field. Whenever she has the ball, she knows where to pass it. She looks up, tries to find an open person instead of just kicking it up the field."

With McClung's signing, Long is hoping it's just the beginning of many more to come.

"I think there's eight or nine other ones right now that could sign with colleges in the next few years," said Long. "We're getting a lot of good players coming up. It's just starting."

McClung also hopes her big step paves the way for some future Lady Bulldog soccer players.

"Hopefully it will get more opportunities for the other girls coming after me," said McClung. "I know they are going to get a chance to play soccer in college too."