By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The 2013 Millington Lady Trojans face a rare challenge.
The team has to replace all-time leading scorer Katlyn Dupree. She tallied 31 goals last season, to set a school record, adding to her career total of more than 100.
Dupree also netted the winning goal during last season’s district tournament game against Cordova. Now with the return of Larry Dagen as head coach after a one year absence, he said it will take a team effort to start life without Dupree.
“I took a year off last year,” he noted. “These kids have played together for a while: Asha Burks, Iris Reyes, Nicole Dunn, Lauren Lester, Chabeli Brooks, Jamie Neville, Dawn Taylor and Emily Stewart.
“That bunch right there has played together,” Dagen continued. “I started those guys and now I get to finish with them. It’s great. We’ve got a nucleus but we don’t have a Katlyn Dupree. We don’t have a Katelyn Dagen. We don’t have an Ashley Benbow or Tabitha Burua.”
In recent years Burua, Benbow, Dagen and Dupree have been the players the opposition has planned to stop. Those players racked up double-figure scoring seasons.
Now Coach Dagen is hoping some of his young athletes will develop into that caliber of scoring threat.
“Offensively, we have two newcomers (to the positions) in Devin McSwain,” he said. “She’s a junior and this will be her third year. We’ve got Iris who will be anchor of our offense. She’ll be starting by the midfield. She’s our best all around player distributing the ball offensively. She’s got the best touch and she drives the ball.”
Dagen said players like Dunn and JC Thompson will be components of the midfield and front line on offense.
“Because we don’t have that go-to person, these girls distribute the ball so well,” he noted. “I’m absolutely incredibly impressed on how they pass the ball.”
The girls have been working with former Trojan greats Kyle Eubanks and the Reyes brothers Jose and Anibal. Eubanks set the boys’ single-season record with 24 goals. Anibal was a skilled mid-fielder and Jose tallied multiple double-digit scoring seasons.
The trio said it’s important to come back and help the current group of Trojan Soccer players. Dagen and the trio have helped the girls conditioning and learn how to see the field.
“All they’re thinking about is doing the next best thing,” Dagen said. “When their opportunity comes up, ‘Am I supposed to pass the pass wide and get it to here? Yes. She’s my teammate.’ It’s great to watch. It might be an octane lower than we’re used to but it’s coming along.”
The Lady Trojans will need to get into full gear to compete with teams like Cordova, Bolton, Bartlett and Arlington.
“Arlington is really good this year,” Dagen said. “They’ve got a young team but they’ve been playing together. Bartlett is in there. And then you have Bolton. Cordova, every year is in the mix. Kingsbury is added in our division and I expect them to be tough.”
In recent years the Lady Trojans have been on the brink of Region after thrilling wins over the Cordova Lady Wolves.
Dagen recalled a game-winner late in regulation in 2011 by his daughter Katelyn.
Last season Dupree sent Millington to the next round with a penalty kick.
“I think we can possible go .500 in the region or district,” Dagen said. “We can set ourselves up with a match with Cordova in the first round.
“You never know,” he concluded. “With this bunch right here, they have the possibility of being a three spot in the district. We can come in behind Bartlett or Arlington. But you never know. If these kids come together and play hard, it’s no telling what can happen. They’re great kids.”