As Good as It Gets
CBU's Missy Gregg has set the new standard for scoring in college soccer. Now, she looks to the pros and beyond.
By Bob Brame
The numbers are staggering. Heading into the 2002 season, the all-time record for goals scored by any man or woman in the history of NCAA soccer was 137. After leading Christian Brothers University to its third straight Gulf South Conference title, forward Missy Gregg's career goal total had reached an astounding 177. After scoring 45 goals in her two years at Dayton University, Gregg scored an NCAA record 73 goals during the 2001 season for CBU and has 59 so far during the Lady Buccaneers' 2002 campaign. She is, quite simply, the most prolific scorer at any level of college soccer ... ever.
In Gregg's two years at CBU, the Lady Bucs have won 41 of 43 games. The team finished second in Division II last year, losing to UC-San Diego in the national finals. In that game, Gregg suffered a torn ACL, an injury from which she has obviously fully recovered.
Gregg was named the Division II Women's Soccer Player of the Year in 2001. She just received her second straight Women's Soccer Player of the Year award in her conference. This year, the Lady Bucs are ranked second in the country again, losing only to Northern Kentucky on the road. On neutral turf, CBU is favored by many to win this year's national championship, and Gregg is a good bet to receive her second straight award as the nation's top player in Division II. Not bad for the 22-year-old from Dayton, Ohio, who described herself as "kind of gangly" when she played on her first select team at the age of 8.
"I wasn't very good yet," said Gregg. "I had not gotten into my legs. But I practiced a lot with my brother, who was four years older than me. In about a year, I went from not being able to do much at all to scoring goals in decent numbers."
Gregg dominated the Ohio soccer scene and scored 180 goals in her high school career. She was a three-time All-State selection and was twice named to the NCSAA/Adidas High School All-American team. Collegiate soccer powerhouses like North Carolina, Notre Dame, and Texas A&M came calling, but she made the first of several pivotal decisions when she signed with Dayton.
"I wasn't ready to leave home," stated Gregg. "I was very close to my family and friends. I had a chance to go to bigger schools, where, if I did well, I'd be pulled up to the national team at a young age. But I went with a gut feeling. I don't regret it at all. I've always done what I thought was right for me at the time."
As Gregg's scoring prowess continued at Dayton, she was named the Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year in 1999 and the league's Most Valuable Offensive Player in 2000, when she led the conference in scoring and finished sixth nationally.
Always looking to improve, Gregg wanted to play on a competitive team following her sophomore year. The W League, an "open" semiprofessional women's league that allows college players to play and maintain their amateur status, got Gregg's attention. She wanted to play on the best W League team she could find and chose the Memphis Mercury. It proved to be another good decision.
Gregg led the W League in scoring with 22 goals and was named Player of the Year for the 2001 season. Good as it was, Gregg couldn't have envisioned just how much of an impact her decision to join the Mercury would have on her life.
She met a number of people from CBU, including Gareth O'Sullivan, the former University of Memphis soccer standout who serves as head coach for both the women's and men's teams at Christian Brothers. O'Sullivan was the stadium announcer for the Mercury's home games, a perfect forum from which to recruit Gregg. It didn't take much for O'Sullivan to convince her to give up Dayton for the friendly campus on East Parkway at Central.
"I knew I was never going to win a national title at Dayton," said Gregg. "After coming to Memphis, I heard a lot about CBU and their goal of winning a national title. Coach O'Sullivan is a great guy and a great coach. CBU is wonderful. It's very personal and you get a lot of one-on-one time with your professors. I liked being away from home, being independent. I wanted a national title. I grew fond of Memphis and decided to come here."
Gareth O'Sullivan is still smiling.
As if her phenomenal goal scoring isn't enough, it's worth noting that Gregg is a psychology major at CBU. She was selected for the All-Gulf South Conference Academic Honors list in 2001 with a 3.5 GPA. Her coach, when asked to speak about his star player, talked about academics before commenting on the player.
"I think she's one of the hardest working student-athletes you'll find," boasted O'Sullivan. "When you find someone good on the field, they don't normally excel in the classroom. She does very well academically as well."
What makes Gregg a record-setting athlete? O'Sullivan should know. He has seen her score 132 times in the last two years.
"She's tremendous in the air. In the bigger games, she tends to get the job done," the CBU coach said. "She likes to pull the trigger, she is very confident, and she's one of the best finishers in the country."
Gregg has broken record after record. But if you ask her about her accomplishments or any comparison to soccer greats like Mia Hamm or Memphis native Cindy Parlow, she calls timeout.
"It's just me," declared Gregg. "I'm trying to improve in some way and don't want to ever feel like I could have had a better year. Cindy Parlow and Mia Hamm are great, great players and have proven themselves at every level. It's exciting for me, but I've got to work very hard to play on that stage."
Gregg knows there is life after soccer. She doesn't see becoming a psychologist, in spite of her major. She does want to pursue a master's degree following her undergraduate work. Coaching is certainly a possibility. Because she has taken a number of communications courses in the area of radio and television, don't be surprised if you see Gregg on ESPN's SportsCenter when her days of scoring goals are over.
"I love all sports," Gregg said. "I will watch football -- professional football -- over anything any day. My dad and I always watched it together from the time I was very young. I'd love to work for ESPN someday."
Before anything else, however, there is the chase for a championship. Gregg and her teammates have given CBU and their coach an excellent chance for a national title. But what comes after for the top goal scorer in NCAA history? Playing for the Women's United Soccer Association? The U.S. team in the World Cup?
Is the most celebrated athlete in CBU history ready for the challenges ahead? "Absolutely," said Gregg. "I'm prepared to move on."
Where's the outrage from the African-American community?
By Ron Martin
If Lynn Lang and Milton Kirk were white, leaders of the African-American community would be up in arms. Terms such as slave trader would be used to describe the men who peddled their influence over a high school athlete for cash. Reverend Jesse Jackson would be in Memphis, using it as a backdrop for his CNN appearances as he decried the injustice of a coach taking advantage of a black teenager and his family. The Black Coaches Association would be calling for reforms and using the guilty pleas as reasons why the NCAA should have more black head coaches. But Lang and Kirk are for some reason escaping criticism from the African-American community and its leaders. I find this very strange.
The color of their skin does nothing to diminish Lang's and Kirk's acts of treason against those who trusted them -- the family of Albert Means. Their guilty pleas and Lang's statements under oath basically proved that they dealt in slave trading, 21st-century style: Gain the confidence of a young athlete and his family, nurture that relationship, then sell the athlete to the highest bidder. You can sugar-coat the incident, but the bottom line remains: They sold Albert Means to the University of Alabama -- plain and simple.
This was an isolated incident only to those who view high school and collegiate sports with blinders on. Unfortunately, for every positive story we hear about coaches using sports to mentor a young athlete, there are probably three stories about coaches riding their young charges to the bank in one way or another.
This incident is a sad commentary on sports -- and those involved -- on two fronts: For one, the only reason this ugly situation caught the light of day is because Lynn Lang wasn't honorable enough to pay his co-conspirator what he owed him. And second, you have to wonder why so many college coaches kept their mouths shut when they came to evaluate Lang's Mandingo man and were informed of his price. One can only surmise it's for the same reason a drug buyer doesn't call the cops when he's ripped off by his dealer.
As irony would have it, Lang's admission of influence peddling was followed by news of the University of Michigan's admission of guilt for buying athletes in the 1990s. But at least their purchase of the "Fab Four" put money in the pockets of the athletes. This doesn't justify the wrongdoing, but at least the athletes weren't placed on the auction block and sold to the highest bidder.
More than a week has passed since allegations charging Lang and Kirk with the sale of Albert Means were demonstrated to be true. I still haven't heard a cry of protest from the African-American community. Are they telling us that as long as the crime was black-on-black it's all right? Or has corruption in amateur sports reached the point of no return?