New Albany senior Watson bulldogs her soccer rivals

soccer_ball_clip_art_13012By Gene Phelps

Daily Journal

NEW ALBANY – It doesn’t take long for the casual fan to find Katelyn Watson on the soccer field.

She’s the player fighting for possession of the ball – on the ground or in the air.

“She’s fearless on the field,” said Watson’s New Albany High School coach, Caryl Vogel. “You don’t see a lot of girls players challenging for a ball in the air, going for a header. She’s not afraid to put her body on the line to win a ball.

“She goes 90-to-nothing everytime she’s on the field.”

Watson, a senior outside forward and center midfielder, leads the Lady Bulldogs (11-5) into the MHSAA Class 4A state playoffs this week. New Albany hosts Amory at 5 p.m today in the opening round. The Lady Bulldogs defeated the Panthers 5-1 earlier this season.

New Albany’s boys (8-6-2) host defending state champion Pontotoc at 5 p.m. Tuesday. The Warriors beat the Bulldogs 3-2 on penalty kicks two weeks ago.

Watson, a Mississippi State commitment, also leads the team in scoring with 16 goals and has recorded four assists. She had 12 goals and seven assists last season and was named the Daily Journal’s 10-member all-area team.

“We’ve played her at outside forward and center mid this season,” Vogel said. “She does a good job wherever she plays.”

Stout defense

The Lady Bulldogs are strong defensively behind the play of center forward Hannah Anderson, center mid Kristen Olson, center defender Caroline Mueller and center mid Meghan Van.

“Mueller is the key to our defense,” Vogel said. “She’s the sweeper for us. Any ball that gets through is her’s. She is the last man back before it gets to the keeper.”

The way the bracket is set up, New Albany, a back-to-back division champion, has homefield advantage in the postseason. The Lady Bulldogs lost in the first round last season to Florence.

“The big thing for the girls is not to get nervous,” Vogel said. “If we remain composed, we have a chance to make a deep run.”

gene.phelps@journalinc.com