Jay Pierson enjoying first season as Ripley High School head girls soccer coach

Mark Martin
Special to Jackson Newspapers
First-year Ripley High girls soccer coach Jay Pierson meets with his team during a break in a recent match. Pierson is a 1981 Ripley High graduate and former Viking football standout.

Jay Pierson played on one of Ripley’s best-ever football teams a little over 40 years ago.

Through his years in soccer, Pierson has applied many aspects from football to the pitch.

The 1981 Ripley High graduate is in his first season as the head girls soccer coach at his alma mater.

He is no stranger to the sport.

For years he was heavily involved in several aspects while his children were playing the sport.

His two sons, Devin and Sam Pierson, were standouts while wearing a Viking uniform.

When Steve Gandee, who enjoyed great success guiding Ripley Lady Viking girls soccer, stepped down as head coach, Pierson chose to get involved and take over the program. Gandee is still involved as an assistant along with Sydni Cunningham, who had a stellar career while playing for the Lady Vikings.

“She relates to the younger kids. She’s doing great,” said Pierson of Cunningham, who is in her first season as an assistant. "And it's great having Steve."

Pierson said despite some tough defeats, the season has gone well.

“I’ve been real pleased with the girls and how hard they have worked,” said Pierson of his first team.

“We have a lot of young players and they have faced off against some good competition.”

Ripley’s record was standing at 6-8-2.

Ripley's losses have come against the likes of teams who at the time were ranked No. 2, No. 3, No. 5, No. 7, No. 8 and No. 9.

“It’s a pretty hard schedule,” said Pierson.

His team has embraced the challenge game after game.

Addi Morrison, a sophomore, is leading the team in goals with nine.

Ripley sophomore Addi Morrison is shown being introduced prior to a recent Ripley girls soccer match. She's greeted by head coach Jay Pierson. Morrison has been the team's leader in goals so far this season.

Senior Katie Lawrence, who doubles as one of the football team’s kickers, has been “a versatile player” this season for Ripley.

Junior Makayla Wriston has played well according to Pierson. She has six goals.

Mellissa Triana, a junior, has switched to keeper and has done a nice job, Pierson said.

Haven Stephens, a freshman, and Selah Stephens, a senior, have performed well.

Seleah Stephens is one of the "better defensive midfielders" in the state according to Pierson.

“This is a good group of girls. They do well in school. They do well at practice. They have been enjoyable to coach.”

Mia Casto, Elizabeth Williams and Marissa Bertagnolli are two other senior performers.

Juniors are Paige Anderson, who has scored three goals, Grace LeTart, Olivia Sias and Mya Casto.

Sophomores are Emme Shamblin, Brooklyn Holmes, Sophie Jenkins, Sophia Lee and Garnet Kish.

Freshman players are Trysten Spiller and Kallie McCutcheon. 

The losses, Pierson admits, "have been tough" ... but he feels it’s a good learning device.

“I try to tell the girls to approach every game by giving it all we’ve got, battle and let the opponent know they were in a game," he said.

“You don’t like to lose, but you do learn from losses more than wins.”

As a standout defensive back on the 1980 Ripley football squad, Pierson and his Viking teammates finished 9-1.

The stinging 7-6 loss to Bluefield kept the Vikings out of the Class AAA playoffs (when only eight teams qualified). Had the Vikings earned a post-season slot, they would have made school history as the first-ever team to do so.

“That Bluefield game is the one we all remember,” Pierson said.

While the defeat was difficult and still frustrates those involved years later, Pierson has fond memories of that team.

“That was a tight-knit group. We always had each other’s back. Everybody was about not playing for themselves but playing for the team.”

It’s a philosophy he’s applying in his first season guiding Lady Viking soccer.