Melanie Rice is changing her shoes while digesting a tough loss to North Little Rock. With a conference record of 2-9, it’s been a disappointing season for a Southside team without much fanfare.
“Well, this is it,” Rice says, motioning to a group of dejected players spread out in the Southside Activity Center.
The short-handed Mavericks’ roster is far smaller than most teams in the league. Which clearly affects how hard, and when, the team can play.
But Rice has done her part. The team’s goalie played well in Friday’s loss, a match the Mavericks controlled for the most part until failing to convert during PKs.
Rice saved three of the five NLR attempts. She also accounted for the team’s lone goal.
But the losing? It’s taken a strain.
The roster includes senior veterans Morrea Kleck, Hannah Schmidt and Angelica Juarez.
But this team also features a number of young contributors, such as freshmen, Abby Holycross, Haven Bracken and Margaret Norton and sophomore Emily Forsgren.
“Melanie is awesome, but it’s tough on all of those girls,” first-year coach Bijan Timjani said. “It’s very disheartening. But my hat’s off to those girls. They’re doing the best they can with virtually no bench.”
“It’s been hard,” Rice said. “We had a whole team last year; we had great chemistry. This year, a lot of girls had to move up, and a bunch of freshmen, too. We’re building chemistry and trying to find the right positions.”
Rice is the face of Southside athletics. Basketball, football, soccer.
Sports is life.
“Sports is something that gets me away from all the stress, even though it can be stressful itself sometimes, like it is right now,” Rice said. “But when I’m having a hard day at school, I can come and practice with the team and we’ll lift each other up, and the team puts me in a better mood. Sports is a good thing to rely on to get me through the day.”
Because of her size, Rice contends she’s been one of the taller girls in her class, people always assumed she played softball.
“Everybody thought I did,” Rice said. “I wanted to play softball, but my mom (Sherry) said we’re a two-sport family. With the schedules (soccer and basketball), there wasn’t much time.”
Last fall, Rice asked coach Jeff Williams if she could play football as a kicker. He welcomed her with open arms.
“They’re (football players) like a bunch of brothers,” Rice said. “Jaylin (Coleman), Jordyn (Jackson) and Taye (Gatewood), it was great.”
Rice has played keeper since she was a seventh-grader, though, because of her strong leg, she’s called upon for penalty kicks. She nailed one from 30 yards out last week at Conway.
She announced this week she’ll extend her soccer career at Northeastern State University.