Whitney (Brown) Stinson has seen the game of soccer from two different perspectives — first during her days as a high school standout at LaFayette and again as a college player at Gordon College and Georgia Southwestern.
Now she’s ready to see it from yet another perspective — on the sidelines at her alma mater.
The 2004 LaFayette graduate, is stepping into her new role as head coach of the Lady Ramblers this season and she says that the game has changed dramatically in the northwest Georgia area from the time she was lacing up her cleats.
“With club and select ball, there are so many more talented players today, and it’s great to be able to build off that,” she explained. “I had a chance to play soccer all around the state, and saw some areas that play great soccer. I really think this area has the potential to be one of those types of places.”
Stinson’s first team will be, in her own words, “really young”, with just four seniors being counted on to help with the transition that comes from a coaching change.
Those seniors include inside midfielder Skye Baribeault, outside midfielders Emily Purcell and Emily Sells, and the versatile Jessica Ingram, a three-sport standout who tallied seven goals on just 25 shots a season ago.
“They are almost like assistant coaches out there in the way they help with communication,” Stinson said. “Not only are they good leaders, they’re well-rounded girls who make good grades and look forward to college. I’m glad to have them on my team in my first season as coach.”
Stinson is also excited about the on-field potential of the rest of her squad, including several returning starters from a team that ended 2012 on a four-game winning streak.
Stinson says juniors Sierra Hendrix and Helena Yates are solid players with a deep love of the game, while Amanda Burnett will play primarily at forward this season to take advantage of her power.
Lauren Franks, along with Shelby Narmore, another three-sport athlete, will also be back. Stinson said she is also happy to have Abbie Ford, an athletic, knowledgable keeper, back in goal after a two-year absence from the sport.
Among the sophomores, Randi King and Tori Tarvin have solid skills and saw extensive playing time last season, while yet another three-sport athlete, Christina Hannah, should bolster the roster.
Stinson is also excited about the potential of freshmen Jayce Sherman, a select ball teammate of King’s, and Catherine McConnell. McConnell, however, will be ineligible for varsity action this season after transferring from Chattanooga Notre Dame.
“We have a lot of talented young players,” she added. “It looks really good for the future.”
As for the present, Stinson says her team will play to win, but that the main goal this season is to see her team compete with the tougher squads in the subregion.
“That’s always a challenge because the teams in our subregion are so good,” she said, “but we want to be able to compete with those teams and understand that we know this game too. We want to build on this for the future.”
Stinson will be assisted by first-year boys’ head coach Casey Payne, another LaFayette alum. She says that by working together, incorporating the recreation leagues, and having a little patience, they can return LaFayette soccer to its glory days.
“We want to bring back LaFayette soccer the way it was when we were playing in the program growing up," she said. "It’s not just a boys’ team and a girls’ team here. We’re making this a complete soccer program and we want to take it even further than it has been in the past.”