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Whyte, Noyce provide leadership

By By Jeff Byrd/The Meridian Star
Nov. 15, 2001
TYLER, Texas Two of the big reasons why the Meridian Community College Eagles have made it back to the NJCAA National Soccer Championships are sophomores Cecil Noyce and Garthfield Whyte.
Both were starting members off coach Steve Clements' 2000 National Championship team. This season, they have had to carry the leadership mantle for the 2001 club. They are the lone sophomore starters. The other nine are freshmen.
The Eagles begin defense of their national championship today at 5 p.m..when they take on Johnson County, Kan., at Tyler Community College. For Noyce, the leadership role has been easy to take. He is the Eagles defensive sweeper.
Noyce says a key to the Eagles success ever since a mid-season trip here to Tyler has been the freshmens grasp of the Meridian system that Clements directs.
"To be honest, Ive been a little amazed at how quickly the freshmen have matured. They have come a long way this season," Noyce said.
Whyte agrees.
"These guys needed to realize what Meridian soccer was about, Whyte adds. At the first of the year, we weren't playing very well. We lost a game here and then tied two others. After that, we started to pick things up from there."
The Eagles have since won eight straight including a fourth straight Mid-Southwestern District title last week in Houston, Texas.
Whyte knows about tough adjustments being a freshmen. In his first season at Meridian, he considered going home. The cultural difference from his native Kingston, Jamaica compared to Meridian left him homesick.
"Not only was the cultural difference a new experience for me, but so was the soccer. The way we played was different," Whyte said.
Whyte came to Meridian through a mutual soccer friend of Coach Clements.
"My friend Barton was playing here in Mississippi and he knew Coach Clements."
Whyte got through his intial year at Meridian. Winning the national championship definitely helped.
"It was quite an interesting moment," he said.
While Wyhte is from Jamaica, Noyce came to Meridian from a half a world away in Johannesburg, South Africa.
"I've been playing soccer for nearly 15 years," Noyce said. "My father was living in Little Rock (Ark.,) and I came over to visit him. I then played in a league there and that's where Coach Clements saw me."
The next stop was Meridian and a national championship ring.
Noyce feels the Eagles should be able to challenge for a repeat.
"We know what this is all about. We know the format, three tough games in four days. We know the field because we won it here last year and we've already been here once on this field for a mid-season tournament.
"But the biggest thing is that we know about pressure. Getting here is about winning. The play here is a lot more intense."
Whyte readily knows.
"We just have to be on the same page. We have to show them that we are defending our championship," Wyhte said.
Jeff Byrd is a sports writer for the Meridian Star. He can be reached at 693-1551 or by e-mail at jbyrd@thermeridianstar.com.

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