Mary Bailey Wickham attended the University of Mississippi soccer camp the past three summers, one of several camps the Brookstone senior attended to improve her skills.
But the trips to Oxford, Miss., served a dual purpose. The weeklong visits gave Wickham the opportunity to check out the campus as a college destination.
“You get to meet the players and the coaches, and you get to see the facilities, and you actually stay in a dorm,” Wickham said. “It’s an opportunity to be seen. I go to several camps throughout the year. I just fell in love with Ole Miss while I was there.”
Wickham, a multi-sport athlete for the Lady Cougars and a member of the tennis and soccer Ledger-Enquirer All-Bi-City teams, signed to play for Bill Holeman’s Rebels soccer team last week.
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Her versatility provided options. Wickham combines with Blake Bowden to form the No. 1 doubles team on Mary Lynne Cumiskey’s defending state champion Brookstone tennis team. She also plays volleyball.
But when it came to a college career, she put away the racket in favor of soccer.
“I guess soccer is my passion,” Wickham said. “My dad (Malon) was a soccer player in college, too, and it’s an aggressive hands-on sport. I don’t know, I just love it.”
Wickham scored 34 goals and had 13 assists last season for Brookstone, which went 13-3-1 last year before falling in the Class A/AA state quarterfinals.
Wickham had considered Mercer University and thought about the University of South Carolina as a possibility.
“I loved the school and everything about it,” she said. “But I went to their summer camp and got a feel for it, but it wasn’t right, it wasn’t like Southern home,” she said.
So the Mississippi campus in Oxford will be Wickham’s home for the next four years. She already has met her roommate for her freshman year in college.
Annually, several Brookstone students make Mississippi their college choice.
“I think five went there last year,” Wickham said.
“Probably three or four will go from my grade,” she added.