By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The past decade has seen some quality players wear the black and gold for the Millington Lady Trojan Soccer program.
Names like Nikki Burua, Ashley Benbow, Katelyn Dagen, Katlyn Dupree, Jana Mergel, Jasmine Scudder, Iris Reyes and Sam Medina have racked up points and assist keeping the program competitive.
Nearby as the entire time either as a parent, supporter or assistant or head coach has been Larry Dagen.
In recent seasons Dagen has been the man in charge overseeing postseason wins, the record-breaking efforts of Dupree and the development of young talent.
The 2014 season presents Dagen and staff with a chance to groom several newcomers to TSSAA varsity soccer.
“Its basics and fundamentals, we may not get into tactics until two days before our first
game,” he acknowledged. “We’ve really have to work fundamentally with these girls. None of these girls is a competitive player. We build our own.
“Devon McSwain is a go-getter and she’s going to help us all over the field,” Dagen continued. “Carena Nichols will anchor our defense. She’s really a solid player. Abby is a nice, finesse type wing player. Kayla Ledgerwood is a young player who will be a forward. She has a year worth of experience. Jacey Thompson will be key on defense.”
Offensively the Lady Trojans are looking to develop the next go-to player in the line of Dupree, Dagen, Benbow and Burua with Bria Barnes.
“She’ll be a sweeper position,” Coach Dagen said. “She’ll be playing the most demanding position on the field. She’s a tremendous athlete.
“And like my Katelyn, she’s who is playing indoor soccer now,”
Dagen continued, “she said, ‘I wish I was as good as I am now back when I was in high school.’ I said, ‘Honey, you’ve matured. Your body matures at different times.’”
Dagen said if Barnes keeps progressing, works on her skills and gets a feel for the game, natural abilities can take her to an elite level.
“That’s the thing with Bria Barnes, she’s such an athlete that if her body matures as quickly as her brain does, she’ll be a very good one,” he said. “She’ll step right in there with all of those good ones we’ve had.”
Millington would like to hold all opponents scoreless in 2014. But the graduation of Emily Stewart has left a hole at goalie.
“You don’t replace Emily,” Dagen said. “She started as a freshman at goalie. And for four years, she was a product of the rec league. The things that she processed are the things
you can’t teach. She had the grit and the muckee. Can you replace someone like her? You would love to but it’s going to be a chore.”
Dagen acknowledged the goalie situation is a question mark in the days leading up to the season opener this week. He hoping a freshman can step up into the position for years to come.
With his time running down as leader of the Lady Trojans, Dagen is trying to make sure the program is in a good place and his last group of players are building for their entire future.
“Next year, Amy Chandler will be taking over,” he announced. “I’m hoping to step down. I’ve had kids play and I’ve been fortune to coach them. When I began my coaching career here, my kids were not playing. “I’ve been involved at the school since I moved back here in 1994 as a coach in one form or the other,” Dagen concluded. “I’ve coached football, freshmen
football, varsity baseball, varsity soccer boys and girls for seven or eight years. It’s been quite an experience. I’ve been so blessed.”