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Oxford girls’ soccer prepares for second season in 6A as O’Connor prepares for her last

This could be a special year for Oxford on the pitch, but for Morgan O’Connor this season already is.

The Chargers are entering their second season in Class 6A and their standout player is entering her final one.

However, O’Connor is signing with Ole Miss next February after committing to the Rebels in April.

Soccer officially began practices this week and with their second practice rained out, Tuesday became a film session. The film of choice was one that has haunted the Chargers since January, their first round loss to Madison Central last season.

“That just kind of brought back some memories for them,” Oxford head coach Hunter Crane said. “It’s eating at them just as much (as me). Especially the older group that played in it, that experienced. The younger group that maybe didn’t have the impact in that specific game still understands that we let that one get away from us.”

That extra motivation, paired with O’Connor’s final season, has made this year one of importance.

With the seasoned roster Crane is going to put on the field this season, the expectations are finding themselves playing meaningful soccer come next February. The expectations are also due to the fact the Chargers feel they did not play up to the standard they had set for themselves after their success in Class 5A, where they reached back-to-back state championships.

Their first year in 6A was an eye-opening experience for Oxford.

“We experienced a little bit of growing pain with that,” Crane said. “We understand that 6A, from top to bottom, is just more physical. They weren’t able to just go out and know that they’re better than 90 percent of the people on the field now. As far as a wake up call it was a good wake up call for them because now it matters more. Those 6A games used to not matter a whole lot. They used to be exciting and stuff but at the end of the day they didn’t matter. Now they do.”

Leading Oxford’s offense will be O’Connor, who has put up video games numbers in the goal column of the stat sheet in recent years. The decision to leave high school early and move on to college was a tough one for O’Connor to make.

O’Connor’s mother was diagnosed with a form of brain cancer that caused the junior to rethink her life plan. With offers between Ole Miss and Auburn on the table, O’Connor felt her family needed her close by.

With everything the junior has gone through on and off the field, it prepared her to make a decision that required a maturity way beyond her years.

The maturity was noticed by her teammates, who voted O’Connor one of the team captains for this season.

“When we got to talking last year about her having the opportunity to graduate early and sign a scholarship with Ole Miss a year early we thought it was a good fit,” Crane said. “We were excited for her to have that opportunity. Everything in life is something that molds you and I think this experience has molded her and changed her and made her grow and be more mature about things. Is everything she’s gone through fair? No, but I think it’s impacted her for a reason.”