By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
PONTOTOC – Carly Naugher’s shot looked easy – just a simple tap-in in front of an unguarded goal.
“It was harder than it looked,” said Pontotoc’s smiling striker. “My adrenaline was going, but I got it in there.”
Naugher’s goal in the 32nd minute of the first half, along with her goal in the final five minutes, gave the Lady Warriors a 2-0 victory against visiting Newton County at Pontotoc’s home field, “The Ditch,” in Saturday’s weather-delayed Class 4A state soccer semifinals.
Pontotoc (18-5) will play Northeast Jones at 5 p.m. Monday in Clinton in a rematch of last year’s state championship match, which was won in sudden death, 2-1, by the Jones County school.
Naugher’s first goal came after a shot attempt by teammate Rebekah Miller from the right wing.
The ball was batted by Newton County (16-8) keeper Micha Mues as she fell to the cold, soggy turf.
“The ball bounced up and I roofed it in,” Naugher said.
Pontotoc coach Marty Pettit wasn’t surprised to see Naugher in the box scrambling for the ball.
“Carly does a nice job on trash balls,” he said. “She’s going to be around the ball and have a lot of opportunities. Today, she was around like she always is.”
Naugher and Miller, along with leading scorer Shelby Drope, give the Lady Warriors a powerful offensive attack. Drope didn’t score against Newton County, but she got her shots in.
“If you focus on Drope, Naugher or Miller will make you pay,” Pettit said. “This is as evenly balanced a team as I’ve had in all my years of coaching.
“Somebody’s going to make you pay.”
Defensively, Pettit was pleased with the play of keeper Emily Munn and defender Emily Williams.
“We controlled most of the game. They had a few break-aways,” Pettit said. “We had some kids step up defensively.”
The match was scheduled to be played last Tuesday, but was delayed by rain, sleet and ice. In an attempt to keep his team focused during the winter weather-caused lull, Pettit practiced them in the rain and sleet.
“Some of the girls wanted to go watch Tupelo play (Thursday) and I told them, ‘Nope, we’re going to practice,” he said. “We practiced in the sleet. In previous games we have played teams I thought weren’t as focused.
“All week, I stressed: ‘Stay focused!’”
Drope laughed when asked about the Lady Warriors’ workouts in the nasty weather conditions.
“We were out here every day,” she said. “We bonded as a team. Coach Pettit kept us focused.”