USM soccer turnaround: Something in the gulf coast waters

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WLOX) - It's been 10 years since the Southern Miss soccer program has had a winning season. Since 2003, the Golden Eagles have compiled a 41-108-11 record and haven't won a road Conference-USA game in five seasons.

That's where five Mississippi gulf coast players come onto the pitch hoping to begin a decade of winning instead of the opposite.

"It's a bit of a change coming out of high school winning multiple state championships then coming here and winning one, sometimes no games, in conference," Bay St. Louis native and senior Mischa Tice said. "I think this year is going to be different with a new coach and I've already seen a lot of differences."

"Ashley Johnson, I coached her when she was as young as 13," first-year Southern Miss  head coach Mohammed El-Zare said. "When I was hired here a few months ago, she asked to come back home. We were really glad to have Ashley on board. She's an exceptional talent."

"He has honestly taught me so much when I was younger," Johnson said. "I was really excited to be able to play for him again especially at the college level."

Three of the coast connections are freshmen. Former Long Beach standout Breann Hedin, West Harrison grad Morgan Saucier and Pass Christian Pirate Devin McGee all decided to play in Hattiesburg. All of them have played soccer together in the past.

"It makes [the transition to college] a lot more comfortable," McGee said. "I've known a lot of the upperclassmen from the coast in the past. We all played on the same club team. Actually, [Breann Hedin] has been my teammate since I've been about nine years old. We've played for the same club team for 10 years.

"Another one [is Morgan Saucier] and we've played on the same club for five years. It's made it a lot easier to adjust to a new place."

While Tice and Johnson grew up just miles from the Gulf of Mexico, it took a couple interviews for them to realize that they share the same May 26th birthday.

"We have the same birthday," Johnson jokingly questioned. "I didn't know that."

Albeit, Tice's birth year is 1992, while Johnson's is 1993.

They're hoping there are only two other surprises that have yet to be determined. Those are wishes for a winning season, and a conference championship after all the candles are blown out on the 2013 regular season.