Bucks’ Mitchell sets school record

Heads-up play, ball handling and communication skills have made sophomore Erica Mitchell a valuable member of the Buchanan High School girls soccer team.

As the center midfielder for coach Kate Coules’ Bucks, Mitchell helps the transition between defense and offense for a team that was off tp an 8-4-1 start in 2016 after graduating 15 seniors from the program after the 2015 campaign.

“My role means being able to look up and see the whole field,” Mitchell said. “I make sure I keep everyone in the right spot and I find my players when I have to pass. I have to keep my head up and encourage my team.”

On May 11, she even sprinted away from her position in the middle to challenge speedy Brandywine senior Jaleesa Garner on a breakaway.

Coules calls Mitchell very “soccer smart” and an unselfish player on a roster with 11 sophomores, six juniors and four seniors.

“She is willing to play for the team and set her teammates up,” Coules said of Mitchell. “That’s great to see. You don’t see that everyday with such a young group of girls.

“It is a pleasure to play with her. She is talented in her own right and has a great head on her shoulders. She works her butt off everyday. That’s why she’s one of my youngest captains.

“She has high expectations and she follows through with them.”

With a second-half goal in a 3-2 loss against visiting Brandywine, Mitchell pushed her season total to 20, tying Jada Meahl on Buchanan’s single-season scoring list.

At the VanDenBerg Invitational Saturday, Mitchell scored six goals in a loss to Niles and a win over Cassopolis to surpass the school record of 25 established by Morgan French.

She opened the season with a four-goal game against New Prairie then added five more against Cassopolis, including one in the first 24 seconds and three against New Buffalo.

When Mitchell is not playing high school or travel soccer (Mitchell has been with Jaier Athletic Futbol Club in St. Joseph since eighth grade after getting her start at the U8 level with the Junior Irish in South Bend), she shows livestock at the Berrien County Youth Fair. She’s done it since age 5.

“I do good with hog showmanship and I do pretty good with my steers,” Mitchell said.

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