They don’t get a lot of the headlines or the notoriety but ask any soccer coach about the players on their back line, the defenders, and they’ll assure you that, without those players, victory on a consistent basis is much more difficult if not downright impossible.
So when Mississippi College girls soccer coach Darryl Longabaugh traveled from his school in Clinton, Miss. (just west of Jackson), to Germantown, Tenn., to watch a center-back that had expressed some interest in joining his program, a center-mid that was part of a high school program that has emerged as one of the best on Arkansas, it didn’t take him long to invite Peyton Ramsey to visit the campus.
Ramsey, the daughter of Allison and Chuck Ramsey, accepted the invitation and, on Monday, March 28, completed the process that began that day by signing with the Chocktaw women’s program to continue her education and her soccer career on scholarship.
Now, Mississippi College isn’t usually the first school that might come to the mind of a prep senior athlete in Arkansas. Ramsey said, it was a classmate that first brought MC up to her.
“Actually, Shayla McKissock got me to talk to the coach,” Ramsey related. “She’s going down there to play softball.” (For McKissock’s story, go here.)
“Coach (Longabaugh) emailed me and I got to talk to him,” she continued. “Then he came to my tournament. He was like, ‘I really like how you play.’ I thanked him and told him I was really interested in playing for him.
“He said, ‘Will you come down and watch us play and we can talk about it?’ So I did and it was like, ‘Wow, they play really intensely. I want to be at that level,’” Rasmey related. “He said, ‘If you’re willing, I’d like you to play for me.’ So I talked to my parents about it. I took the weekend to think it over and, on Monday, I committed and today I’m signing.”
She said the campus was inviting. “I took a tour before I watched them play and everyone was really nice. It was really pretty. My major is a big part.”
Ramsey wants to major in Forensics. At Mississippi College, it would be an Administration of Justice degree.
“The team was really welcoming,” she added. “I got to meet them and talk to them after the game and before I even committed they were saying, ‘Hey, future teammate . . . ‘ And I just got that feeling. I just really wanted to be there.”
Longabaugh, Ramsey said, told her he expected her to come right in and compete for a spot in the lineup as a defender. “Of course, you never know what’s going to happen. I can move around,” she noted. “He said I was a strong defender and I don’t get nervous when I play. I’m very calm. It’s just natural to me.”
In fact, it might be expected that someone who has been playing since they were 3 years old might feel comfortable on the pitch.
“I’ve watched Peyton be successful on and off the field,” said Bryant head coach Julie Long. “I’ve watched her struggle with injuries and even more, come back from her ACL tear she had her junior year. It was a huge push to get her back playing again. I’ve watched her overcome a lot of things. Peyton’s always tried to get better. She’ll continue to improve over the next four years as she plays for Mississippi College. I know that she’s going to be successful for Mississippi College.”
“My coaches got me where I am today,” Ramsey stated.
“Peyton is one of my girls,” said John Lowery, whose daughter Anna is a senior forward on the Lady Hornets team. “I’ve had a group of eight or nine different girls and I’ve had Peyton since I think she was 7. Basically, it’s like I’ve got six extra daughters.
“Peyton’s always been my center-back, always worked hard,” he added. “Peyton can be as good as she ever wanted to be. She just has to work at it. In college, the competition’s going to be tougher, more competitive but, basically, Peyton has the skill and the ability to do anything she wants to. If she puts the effort in, she’ll be one of the best players out there.”
In fact, Ramsey is just the first of what may be several seniors on this year’s Lady Hornets team as they work towards successfully defending their Class 7A State championship and reach the title game for a third straight year. Counting their 8-0 start to this season going into Tuesday’s match at North Little Rock, the Lady Hornets have posted a 70-6-3 record in the years Ramsey, Lowery and the rest of the seniors on the team have been a part of the program.
“Four years ago when this senior group came into the high school program, I couldn’t have been more excited,” Long said. “They were eager and wanted to push us to new levels. So far, they have accomplished all of that and more. Their freshman year, they basically led us into third place (at State). Their sophomore year, it was second then, their junior year, we won State. Every year, we’ve won multiple tournaments with them.
“It started even before they were in the program,” she mentioned. “They were my ball girls. We got them shirts and they were our ball girls for about three years before they were added into the program (as freshmen). So, from the time that I’ve been here, seven years, I feel like they’ve been a part of this program. They’ve played together forever and they really made a difference even before they played for me.
“Before I was even in the equation, Peyton had another coach that pushed her,” Long added. “John Lowery has done more for these girls than I ever could.”
“I’ve been very proud of what we’ve done,” Lowery concluded. “I’ve said, I coached them from 7 on up until they got to ninth grade, I think they were kind of sick of me, and I was sick of griping at them. So I begged Coach Long to please take over. She’s taken what I started and really just elevated everything to a higher level.”
Asked about her success and the team’s, Ramsey said, “We just keep our intensity up in practice and act like it’s a game every day, work on all the small things. After a game, we talk about all the things we can get better on and we work on them until the next game. We just keep getting better every practice.”