NEMS Daily Journal PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Shelby Drope, Pontotoc

By John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal

PONTOTOC – Sometimes she absolutely treasured playing with her older sister. At other times, she wished she hadn’t, especially when arguing with her on the field.
“I really don’t like that sometimes,” Shelby Drope said about bickering with her sibling.
But if it wasn’t for Hannah, then Shelby Drope wouldn’t have had nearly a productive 2010-11 season. She wouldn’t have scored 27 goals and assisted on 15 more to lead the Pontotoc High girls soccer team to the MHSAA Class 4A state championship game and earn Daily Journal Player of the Year honors.
The Pontotoc freshman, who would often form a two-person wall with her big sis, credited Hannah, a senior, with a lot of the success she experienced over the course of this past season.
Shelby Drope also had to credit both of her team’s outside forwards, Rebekah Miller and Carly Naugher, as well as the midfielders for crossing the balls in and allowing her to take care of the rest.
And the Lady Warriors coach, Marty Pettit, would have to agree whole wholeheartedly.
“It’s not about one player. This is not about Shelby. Shelby has won this award … but it’s just that the players around her all work together so well,” Pettit said. “She brings them up; they elevate her up. So, it’s just a total team effort.”
But he and everyone else associated with that team know full well that Shelby is a major reason why Pontotoc had such a great season – the Lady Warriors fell 2-1 to Northeast Jones in the state title game and finished with an 18-6-1 record – and why the team’s players looked so brilliant during the course of the season.
“When we got into the playoffs, people started paying attention to her – the Newton Countys, the Amorys and so on and so forth,” Pettit said about his 5-foot-41/2 freshman forward. “And what you started seeing is that she was getting special attention.
“But what that did was, that just allowed for other players to step up. For example, Carly Naugher, Rebekah Miller and these others kids up top. … You can concentrate on Shelby, but then again, there’s going to be somebody else that is going to make you pay.”
Not about numbers
With tremendous athletic ability and intelligence, Drope is a threat to score whenever she touches the ball.
“She’s grown a lot and has gotten stronger,” Hannah Drope said of her freshman sister. “She can take on anyone pretty much.”
Added Pettit, “She had excellent instruction as a younger kid growing up. She has the desire to play, the intelligence to play, and when you combine all those things together, it has made her the player she is now.”
But just don’t expect Shelby Drope to put up mind-blowing statistics.
“I didn’t think I was going to score as much,” Drope said about her 27 goals this season. “Maybe have more assists.”
“She could have scored multiple goals in a lot of games,” said Pettit. “But as an old coach told me a long time ago, we don’t have to beat people 12-0 or 8-0 or whatever the score may be.”
With that being in mind, Pettit didn’t let her – or any other player – go off on a scoring binge in a game whose outcome had already been decided.
“She’s not going to go out and embarrass anyone or try to show anyone up,” said the Pontotoc coach. “She’s going to go about her job – do her job and do it well. She’s going to be consistent every day.
“At the end, you’re judged on your wins and losses. You can look at our record and I think that proves she definitely did her job along with the other kids on our team.”
Feud for thought
Even though this was her best season of her young playing career and it will certainly be hard to top, it’s safe to say that Shelby Drope hasn’t peaked yet.
“She’s continuing to develop,” Pettit said. “That’s the one good thing about Shelby: She has yet to become stagnant. She continues to improve every year.
“Like a lot of kids and what everybody’s coach would say – but she does – she has an excellent work ethic. She has a great attitude. She buys into what we try to do here at Pontotoc.”
Drope will likely have an opportunity to extend her playing career past high school. It may be just a matter of time for her to land at a NCAA Division I program.
Her high school coach believes that if she continues to play at showcase tournaments and for her club team, the Chicago Fire Juniors out of the Jackson metro area, someone will notice her talents and come calling.
“There’s no question that she can play (NCAA) Division I soccer,” said Pettit. “I’ve had several kids who’ve played at Mississippi State, Ole Miss, North Alabama – I can go down the line – Florida, and so on and so forth, and she can play with any of those kids. She’s at that level.”
And what has perhaps molded her into the talent she is today is players like her older sister, who, as the “bossy one,” would attempt to coach her at a young age.
“We got into arguments because I tried to be critical,” Hannah Drope said of her dealings with Shelby on the soccer field. “She would get mad at me.”
Make no mistake about it, though: Shelby has made a name for her own self.
“She plays select (soccer) in Jackson with a very good team,” Hannah said, “and she’s been playing for a long time.
“She’s good.”
Contact John Wilbert at 678-1572 or john.wilbert@journalinc.com.