By Jackson Sepko
The Commodores’ athletic director, soccer coach and bowling coach heaped praise on Oxford and Lafayette County businesses whose donations helped the school purchase rings for its state championship teams in girls’ soccer and boys’ bowling.
“This town is amazing,” said Lafayette head girls’ soccer coach Melinda Scruggs. “The community will rally around teams and even clubs and different groups and organizations. People stepped up to help and recognize the hard work these girls put in.”
Members of Scruggs’ state-title team will now be outfitted with rings commemorating their 24-2 season. The Commodores’ girls’ soccer squad recorded shutouts in 15 games and allowed just one goal in eight separate contests.
“The defense is really tough. The goalie, Caitlyn (Rhea), leading the way, and her three defenders who are right in front of her just do a great job communicating what’s happening back there,” said Commodores athletic director Greg Lewis.
The ‘Dores also lit up the scoreboard, averaging five goals a game and scoring 130 total goals, led by 18- and 13-goal outbursts in their two games against West Point.
Lewis praised the high-scoring offense of the young Commodores.
“Playing older girls, they’re going to knock you off the ball a little bit,” he said. “The way that they pass the ball and what they do up front with each other, it just looks like they know what’s happening each time.”
The togetherness Lewis praised is the product of the family atmosphere Scruggs fosters on her team.
“They bought into the fact of everybody playing together as a team instead of individually,” Scruggs said. “They were willing to play for each other no matter what.”
Scruggs stated that the team’s willingness to play for each other translated to the practice field, where the ‘Dores put in extensive work.
“You can’t take a day off,” Scruggs said, “because when you take a day off, someone is getting better than you are.”
With the team fully bought into the idea of playing for each other –– or playing as a family, as Scruggs describes it –– and with that family mindset translating into hard work in practice, Scruggs said: “the rest of it just kind of fell together.”
Scruggs’ soccer squad was not the only team at Lafayette to win a state title recently, as the school’s boys’ bowling team also claimed a state championship last Friday, the Commodores’ second title in a week.
The Commodores only lost two matches all year, both to a school in a higher division, en route to claiming the 5A state title.
“I have a great group of guys who really devote themselves to the game,” said head bowling coach Kelle Sumrall.
The ‘Dores see contributions students from eighth grade through 12th grade, and according to Sumrall, “They work well together, and it just shows.”
The outstanding accomplishments of these two teams are not limited to the field or the bowling alley, however. These students are succeeding in the classroom and in the community.
Lewis stated that two of the four seniors on the Commodores’ girls’ soccer team are among the top 15 graduates in terms of GPA and that the team regularly averages at least a 3.0 GPA.
“I’m honored to be a part of a group of girls who want to strive at everything –– in all aspects of their life,” she said.
She said she frequently tells members of her team, “You’re a student-athlete –– a student first and then an athlete.”
Lewis said the fundraising efforts for both teams’ rings are nearly complete. The girls’ soccer team has a GoFundMe page set up for donations.
Lewis credits 44th-year Lafayette athletic administrator, middle school athletic director Jimmy Murphy, as the orchestrator of the school’s athletic fundraising efforts.
“As soon as Coach Murphy goes to see them, they’re always willing to give that money for those rings. We’re just so appreciative of them. We couldn’t do it without them for sure,” Lewis said of Murphy’s fundraising and the community’s response to it.
The student-athletes and coaches said they are certainly quite grateful for the local support.
“To see that (support) is just so inspiring and (helps) to encourage our kids to continue striving to be better in everything they do,” Sumrall said.