By John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal
UPDATE: Tupelo-Madison Central soccer games moved to 2:00 today. Girls at Tupelo, boys at MCHS.
TUPELO – Despite losing 2-0 to Madison Central High School on Dec. 3, Tupelo High boys soccer coach Nathan Hall considered that game as one of his team’s best performances all season.
“I thought we played one of our best games,” Hall said on the phone Tuesday.
The Golden Wave played that night without the services of goalkeeper Ben Schaefer and Luke Mason, and surrendered the second goal late in the game.
With that being said, Hall still didn’t consider the absence of those two players as a major reason why his team lost that night.
The rematch that counts the most will be played tonight at 6 p.m. at Madison Central High School, as the 16-4-1 Wave battle University of Tulsa commitment Stephen Roberson and the 19-2-3 Jaguars in a MHSAA Class 6A state semifinal.
“They don’t really have a weak link,” said Hall, channeling his inner Lou Holtz. “They’re good throughout the field. It’s been a long time since we played them.”
Meanwhile, the Wave have been playing excellent soccer of late, clinching the Division 2-6A title on the final day of the regular season with a 3-0 shutout of Starkville, blanking Olive Branch 4-0 in its first-round playoff contest and outlasting a talented Northwest Rankin bunch in overtime, 3-2, in Saturday’s quarterfinal.
“They’re pretty much equal to Northwest Rankin,” Hall said of Madison Central. “They play similar to Northwest Rankin.”
So how did the Wave spend its time leading up to its big match with the Jaguars? After all, the Tupelo squad had two additional days to prepare since the match was postponed from Tuesday night to Thursday due to the weather.
On Monday afternoon, there were no soccer balls present at the team’s workout.
“We played capture the flag,” Hall said Tuesday morning. “It was just something to get loose and get their minds off the game and let them have a little fun.
“On Tuesday, we’ll play some short-sided games and we’ll go through our whole warm-up and get ready to go.
“Wednesday we’ll have a little shootaround and let the keepers get a little bit of live stuff.”
The key for the Wave, says its coach, is to absolutely avoid falling behind early.
“Our kids start off solid usually,” Hall said. “The first four or five minutes will be key to us. If we don’t panic in the beginning, we’ll be all right for the most part.
“Generally speaking, when we have given up goals early, it has cost us the game. That’s really been true in every loss we had.”
The winner of tonight’s match gets to play the winner of the Ocean Springs-Gulfport semifinal in Saturday night’s Class 6A state championship game set for 7:30 at Clinton High School.
Contact John Wilbert at 678-1572 or firstname.lastname@example.org.