Pair of All-District seniors solidify important midfield spots for SSHS girls

By BOBBY "BUTCH" BURNEY | News-Telegram Sports Editor

Mar. 22, 2007 - Martin Bryant had one returning All-District midfielder when he was named SSHS head girls soccer coach last spring. It wasn't long before he had another one.

Devyn Cullins, an All-District player at Rowlett, transferred to Sulphur Springs in the early summer and joined Robin Grafton, a three-time All-District midfielder for the Lady Cats. Together, the two seniors have been spectacularly solid.

"The games that we really dominated play are the games that Devyn and Robin dominated in the midfield," Bryant said. "We're lucky enough to have two seniors I can put out there and not worry about them."

It helps that the pair have different strengths. Cullins is more physical and defensive-minded, while Grafton uses her speed and is more geared toward offense.

Grafton has eight goals and nine assists, while Cullins has five assists and almost 40 corner kicks.

"Robin and Devyn play basically the same spot, but they have a different role in our offense," Bryant said. "While Robin pushes and get more into the offensive attack, Devyn kind of hangs behind on defense.

"When you look at a good soccer team, they're normally going to be strong in the middle."

The Lady Cats will need their strong play when they take on McKinney Boyd tonight in the bi-district round of the UIL playoffs.

Grafton, who has played the last two years with her younger sister Bonnie on varsity, and Cullins are important in winning 50-50 balls. Cullins is fearless in using her body to get position, while Grafton is taller and can outleap other players on headers. They are both skilled with their feet.

"I don't know how she does it, but Robin can go into challenges, come out with the ball and never slow down. I still haven't figured out how she does that," Bryant said. "Robin uses her speed. She's aggressive, but she's not as physical as Devyn. She'll fight for the ball and isn't afraid to take someone on, either. That's what you like in the middle."

He describes Cullins as a hybrid player.

"Some people call her a stopper, I call her a defensive mid. It just depends on who we're playing," he said. "She helps us out in the middle because she's so versatile. She can take our set kicks and our corners. She will push up when she can and get back when she needs to. She does as good of a job as any of our defenders of marking up."

Cullins was a three-year starter for Rowlett before moving to Sulphur Springs with her mother.

She stuck with soccer because it's something she has a passion for - and that's she's pretty good at.

"I think any sport helps you in life to be dependable and disciplined," she said. "I play midfield because I can control the midfield by winning balls."

Bryant said he feels comfortable with the ball in either of the girls' possession.

"Anytime that Robin's on the ball, something good will probably happen," he said. "She doesn't lose the ball very much. She's going to win those challenges, one-on-one with somebody. "

"You look at a lot of games, most of them around here are won and lost in the midfield. To have a players who are aggressive and fearless, it gives you an advantage."

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