To Clay Smith, there are a number of things that separate Lonnie Mulligan from the average soccer player.
“The hard work, dedication and love of playing soccer put with the God-given talent,” Smith said. “She [Mulligan] has the natural talent and the desire.”
Put it all together, and you get a dynamite goalscorer like Mulligan, who wrapped up her prep career at Oak Grove earlier this week. From her freshman year to this past season, she finished with 96 career goals and hopes to bring that type of production to the Southeastern Conference.
Though it was made official earlier this month, Mulligan signed with Ole Miss on Friday, signaling the end of an incredible career as a Lady Warrior.
“I’ve been working for this since I was five years old,” Mulligan said. “Just having everybody here and having a great support system is actually something that’s extremely important. That’s what really made me the most happy. That I have come so far, and they’re supporting me.”
Mulligan was at the forefront of Oak Grove’s success and run to the Class 6A semifinals this past season. She led the team with 39 goals, finishing just four shy of the school’s single season record.
“When you’re playing 6A soccer and can score that many goals against those types of teams, it’s just an amazing feat,” said Smith, Mulligan’s coach at Oak Grove. “She’s just talented at scoring.
“There’s a lot more to her game, but when it comes down to it, she’s just really a top-notch goalscorer. One of the best I’ve ever coached.”
Mulligan will take her talents to an Ole Miss program that finished 10-7-3 this past season. She says it’s always been a team and school that’s drawn her interest. But a visit to campus really sealed the deal, said Mulligan.
“I just knew it was the fit for me with how competitive they are on the field. I’m just really excited to bring my athletic abilities to their really technical, high-paced team. Hopefully I can match it and score some goals.
“And I just want to tell everybody to don’t give up and keep pushing. If you’re meant to be somewhere, it’s gonna happen. I’m happy that Ole Miss is the place for me.”
Joining Mulligan at Friday’s signing was Oak Grove boys standout Adam Stone, who signed to continue his soccer career at Jones County Junior College. Like the Lady Warriors, the Warriors made a deep run into the 6A playoffs this year, and Stone was a big part of that. His 14 goals and six assists were both second on the team.
“To go out with such a good season my senior year, it’s indescribable,” Stone said.
Now he’s headed just up the road to Ellisville.
“It means a lot, because I never thought I’d actually be here having a scholarship for anything, really,” Stone said. “When I first came here, I just wasn’t content with sitting on the bench. So I tried my hardest to get in the starting lineup. Got in the starting lineup, and I wanted to win. We got to this season and started to win, win and win.
“I know the coach really well, and it’s not very far from my house,” Stone added. “Everybody can come watch me play that’s been here at Oak Grove.”