PERKINSTON — Mississippi Gulf Coast women's soccer coach Jackie Rhodes had a simple request for her Lady Bulldogs playing not just their first MACJC South Division game of the year, but the first regular-season game period.
"All we asked for was hard work, and this is the first time we've seen hard work the whole game," she said. "It was much appreciated."
Kelby Zendejas (Fr., Brandon/Northwest Rankin) scored twice to lead Gulf Coast to a 3-1 win.
She scored in the ninth minute to change the home team total, helped by Jade Bernet (Fr., Alicante, Spain/Narrabundah)
"I was making the right run, and Jade slid me the through ball," Zendejas said. "I went one-on-one with the keeper and slid it around her to get it in the net."
Pearl River tied it 16 minutes later, but Gulf Coast would pull away before halftime. Chloe Fell (Fr., Bury England/Woodhey) was played through by Kaitlyn Harwell (So., Wiggins/Stone) for a 2-1 lead with 15 minutes left in the half.
Zendejas struck again eight minutes later off a Paris Payne (Fr., Southampton England/Saints Foundation) free kick.
"Paris had a free kick, and it just came off the keeper's hands," Zendejas said. "I just hit it with the left foot. They always tell us to be there to attack the rebounds, so I was there for that."
Rhodes praised Zendejas' relentlessness through the game, and she helped Gulf Coast close out the win during a scoreless last 45 minutes.
"Since I've been here, this is the first division win we've had in the opener," Rhodes said. "It's fun to let these girls enjoy it today, but it's back to work tomorrow."
Gulf Coast returns to action Tuesday with a trip to Meridian for a 5 p.m. kickoff. The Lady Bulldogs are at home Friday when Jones County visits for a 5 o'clock game.
After the game, the playing surface at the MGCCC Soccer Complex will be named Bary Thrash Field in honor of the school's first soccer coach. Ceremonies will take place between the women's and men's games.
For more information on MGCCC's 10 intercollegiate athletic teams, follow @MGCCCBulldogs on Twitter and MGCCCBulldogs on Facebook, and go to mgcccbulldogs.com.