STARKVILLE — Prior to Monday, Anna Albritton had one soccer player sign a college scholarship in her time as Starkville High School”s girls soccer coach.
She considers her second to be her first.
Not many coaches get to see one of their standout players develop from grade school, but Albritton realized that feat Monday morning when goalkeeper Raevonne Shoemaker signed a scholarship to play soccer at Itawamba Community College.
“You go back to rec (soccer), we were one big happy family,” Albritton said. “This isn”t just Starkville High School. We”ve watched this young lady go through the rec program and the high school program. The community has watched her grow and improve.”
Shoemaker has been Albritton”s first-team goalkeeper since her seventh-grade season. Last season, Shoemaker was named The Dispatch Girls Soccer Player of the Year. She is the first Lady Yellow Jacket to sign a college scholarship since Elizabeth Sanford signed with Mississippi College following the 2008 season.
ICC coach and former Starkville player Mike Sullivan said Shoemaker will compete against redshirt freshman and Caledonia graduate Shaina Cruse for the starting position next season.
“(I”m) really, really excited,” Shoemaker said. “I was shaking walking down the hall. One more point on my ACT and I go for free. (Sullivan) told me that there”s gonna be a trainer there 24-7, and we have our own workout room. It looked like a great campus.”
Earlier Monday, Sullivan was in Lowndes County to sign standout defender Kye Van Someran.
In six seasons, Shoemaker and Albritton have shared a strong, if not contentious relationship. Shoemaker was benched for Starkville High”s home loss against Tupelo but returned to close the season against Columbus and at Tupelo.
“Me and coach Anna, yeah, we”ve had our ups and downs, but the ups are the best time — when she looks at me and tells me ”great job,”” Shoemaker said.
Albritton said Shoemaker”s feisty personality has helped her play the position.
“She was mean back then as she is now,” Albritton said. “She was extremely intense back then. She really didn”t care about who had the ball at their feet, she”d go and get them.”
Shoemaker has helped lead a young Lady Jackets” squad to a 12-4 mark ahead of today”s Class 6A first-round playoff match at DeSoto Central.
It”s been a down year for Shoemaker after rescuing Starkville in countless penalty shootouts a year ago. Still, the team finished .500 in the district and with a better record.
Shoemaker admits her senior season has brought challenges, which she compares to facing top teams like Tupelo and Clinton. She has tried to stay poised knowing this season was an audition for a scholarship offer.
“She”s been steady,” Albritton said. “Last year was by far her best year. This year hasn”t been her best, but she”s stayed in there. A lot of it”s mental. We had to discipline her, and that gets in your head. And we”ve gotten that straightened out. (She has) a better attitude, a positive attitude. It”s growing pains. Things they have to do outside of soccer.”
Now that East Mississippi C.C. has disbanded its soccer programs, Sullivan is keen to sign more talent from Starkville High. He has scouted Shoemaker for two years and looks forward to the competition she”ll provide next season.
“She”s physical, and from what I can tell she”s relatively fearless, which as a keeper sometimes you got to have some crazy people out there,” Sullivan said.
ICC finished 8-10 and 6-2 in district play this season and advanced to the state semifinals before falling to eventual state champion Jones.
With no experience in goal and just two defenders returning, Shoemaker could play an expanded leadership role as a freshman.
“Women”s goalkeepers are not easy to find, especially good ones you know could probably help you,” Sullivan said. “We don”t have four years with them, so you can”t bring people in like we can train them for a year or two. You need people that can help you yesterday. She”s somebody that fits in that category.”
Albritton admits it has been difficult getting Shoemaker proper training while coaching the team, but she”s confident Sullivan can expand Shoemaker”s skills.
Shoemaker hopes to improve her jumping and diving in the offseason.
“I can reach the top of the goal now,” Shoemaker said. “I”ve had to learn how to dive, dive more, and come out and slide. This is bad to say, but I like taking out the player more than the ball.
“When you”re raised in a house with three brothers and a dad, you learn how to take the rough times they give you and make it the best.”
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