By John Wilbert / NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Recording 13 consecutive shutouts may present a concern for Shelley Miller’s Tupelo High girls soccer team.
“You just worry that when you get into a big game and you do get scored on how the girls are going to react,” Miller said. “We tried to do a lot of simulating of that in practice – make them down a goal and try to come back and win.
“But it’s hard to get the exact game atmosphere in a practice. We can just hope that they will react the right way.”
Or you can just not let them score, period, as was the case against Horn Lake in Monday night’s MHSAA Class 6A first-round playoff game.
Tupelo goalkeeper Kat Stratton was tested less than three minutes into the second half, and other than that, Stratton and fellow keeper Hannah McCarty didn’t have to worry about contesting shots in the Lady Wave’s 6-0 victory at Tupelo High School.
“We’re just solid all over the field,” said Tupelo senior captain and defender Tanner Kidd. “We can take someone out and put somebody else back in and it’s just the same. Nothing changes.”
Tupelo (20-0) will likely get tested a lot more in Saturday’s quarterfinals against the winner of Tuesday’s Clinton-Northwest Rankin first-round game. The Lady Wave defeated Clinton twice on the season: 2-0 on Jan. 14 and 5-0 on Nov. 13.
Tupelo didn’t play Northwest Rankin during the regular season.
For Horn Lake (13-4), it was more of the same when they faced the Lady Wave again.
“We came over here two years ago and played Tupelo,” said Horn Lake coach Cameron Glenn, “and it was 6-0. We come back again – and I feel like Tupelo is a much better team than they were that year – and once again it was 6-0 regardless of who they had on the field.”
The Lady Wave took advantage of Horn Lake’s short-handedness in goal by scoring four times in the first half on Jessica Dexter, a midfielder who had to play goal when Ashley Nelson, Horn Lake’s third-string goalkeeper, left the game due to concussion-like symptoms.
Nelson took a knee to the head when diving for a ball in front of the Horn Lake goal less than seven minutes into the contest.
“Horn Lake’s got a good team,” Miller said. “They’re aggressive. Unfortunately for them, they’re kind of down on their keepers right now.
“We kind of knew that coming in. We tried to put a lot of stuff on the frame and just see what happened.”
Dexter responded to the challenge well in the early going, but Tupelo’s Abbie Banko was able to get one by the Horn Lake keeper when her shot deflected off a defender and went into the net to give the Lady Wave a 1-0 advantage with 25:18 left in the first half.
Nearly six minutes later, Erin Tucker fed across a nice ball to Chardampé Hannah, who knocked it into the net for her first of three goals on the night.
Tucker would also score a goal with 12:31 remaining before halftime, and Bryson Rial added Tupelo’s fourth goal close to four minutes later.
Just five minutes and change into the second half, Hannah scored for the second time off an assist from Tucker and finished the night with one more goal when she jammed in the rebound off Georgia Russell’s shot that hit the crossbar in the 16th minute of the second half.
“I thought we came out and played a little nervous at the beginning,” Miller said. “Once we kind of settled into our rhythm, I thought we did a good job.”
n Game summary, Page 2B