As the Columbus State women’s soccer team prepares to face Grand Valley in the NCAA Division II Final Four on Thursday night in Kansas City, it means that for a talent-laden senior class, just two more games, tops, remain in their careers as Lady Cougars.
One of those players, goalkeeper Maylyn Parsons, will leave CSU as perhaps the best ever at her position in team history.
Her 29 shutouts are the most for any goalkeeper in a career with the Lady Cougars, and she holds a 66-10-3 record in games played for Columbus State, including a 21-2 record this season heading into Thursday’s semifinal.
The native of Greenville, S.C. has definitely been a force to be reckoned with the past four seasons in net. She has been named to the All-Peach Belt Conference first team for each of the past three years and has won numerous academic All-American awards, including the CoSIDA Academic All-American of the Year this season.
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“I’m super happy she took a chance on us, and she’s been a blessing for the past four years,” said head coach Jay Entlich. “She’s a young lady who is an engineering major, and to be fair, isn’t even going to finish her degree at Columbus State. She was willing to come here for three-and-a-half years, play soccer, and represent our university, and come January, she’ll move to Atlanta and finish her degree at Georgia Tech. There’s not many young ladies willing to do that and make that sacrifice.”
Parsons is just one cog in a talent-laden senior class that has the Lady Cougars one game away from playing for a national championship.
“It means a lot,” she said of being part of the successful senior class. “We accomplished a lot as an entire class, not just myself. Ultimately, I want to win a national championship and that’d be the best way to go out, but as it’s winding down, it gives you some time to reflect on the things you did accomplish. I don’t think we could have asked for anything more besides a national championship.
“In my four years, we’ve won a regional title three years, won the Peach Belt three years in a row, won the regular season, so I don’t think we could have accomplished much more as a class. We’re leaving behind a legacy of hard work and a winning spirit that we’ve instilled in the team. For me, it’s more about building those below us to keep the tradition alive.”
Parsons also has had the benefit of having Division II’s most potent offense in front of her. It’s a unique situation as a top-notch goalkeeper to hone her skills in practice against such an offensive juggernaut as the Lady Cougars.
“It’s fantastic,” she said. “We have some of the best forwards in the country, so having to defend them every day (in practice), I don’t know if I can ask for better reps or ask for better girls to play against every day. They’re going to give you 100 percent, and you have to make good saves every single day in practice.”
The powerful offense can also make for some slow days in net for Parsons. In nine of her shutouts this season, the Lady Cougar offense has poured it on at the other end, scoring five or more goals against the opposition.
“It’s a comfort thing, but there’s always that one save to be made,” Parsons said. “The other team’s always going to get a loose ball up on you, so you have to stay engaged. In the Peach Belt, (your opponent) is always going to be able to compete both offensively and defensively, so it’s a credit to our offense this year that we’ve been able to win games by that magnitude.”
The Lady Cougars’ opponent on Thursday, Grand Valley, is the same team that denied CSU the national championship last season. Like the Lady Cougars, they also feature a high-octane offense, with Columbus State and Grand Valley 1-2 in goal production for much of this season.
“I don’t think either of us are used to being shut out, so it’s not going to be one of those games where it’s 1-0 or 2-1 or something,” Parsons said. “I think it’s nice to have the offense behind us. On the defensive side, we have tons of faith in them, and they have tons of faith in us. I think defensively, we’ve played an offense that scores a lot of goals in North Georgia, so it’s not the first time we’ve seen an offense like that. We’re ready defensively. I don’t know if it’s a revenge factor, but we know they’re going to play. We can attack based on our strengths, using what they did last year and watching film. We want to win this game because of what happened last year. For the returning players, there’s a lot of emotion behind it.”
No matter what happens this weekend in Kansas City, Parsons says soccer has blessed her with a wealth of experiences that will last her entire lifetime.
“Over the course my career, it gave me friends I can’t replace or wouldn’t have met at another setting,” she said of the sport. “On my club soccer team at home, there were players not from the same hometown as me, so I’m almost positive I never would have met them and their families. I also think in terms of being a college athlete, it taught me how to prepare mentally, time management, things like that. It taught me a lot of life lessons, how to cooperate and be a team player.
“I definitely wouldn’t be who I am today.”