By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
SPRINGVILLE – Jala Parker and her South Pontotoc teammates are working on their shooting today in practice. Lady Cougars coach Horace Kitchens is making sure of that.
The tenth-year coach watched them miss shot after shot – many one-on-one – in Thursday’s MHSAA Class 1A-2A-3A state playoffs opening-round game against Winona.
On a positive note, South Pontotoc’s Parker, Anna Mills, Breanna Kitchens and Tristan Kitchens found the back of the net, too, leading the Lady Cougars to a 7-1 postseason victory on a soggy field.
“We got off to a slow start and missed a lot of shots,” said Kitchens, whose team (12-1) advances to Saturday’s second-round match at Vicksburg’s St. Aloysius. “The field is muddy. We did a lot of slipping and sliding.
“It’s hard to shoot straight when you can’t stand up. There were five or six times when it was us and the keeper and we couldn’t hit the net.”
The Lady Cougars attempted 28 shots on goal.
Parker, one of two seniors, gave South Pontotoc a 1-0 lead in the 16th minute with the first of her two goals. She blamed the field conditions for her team’s poor shooting performance.
“I think a lot of it had to do with the mud,” she said. “That and a lack of communication.”
Winona tied the score at 1-1 in the 20th minute on a goal by Kelsey Robertson. The Lady Tigers attempted just three shots against Cougars senior keeper Cady Hester.
“We were aggressive on defense,” Kitchens said. “I thought we controlled the flow of the ball.”
Mills, who scored three goals for South Pontotoc, two on penalty kicks and one on a direct kick, gave her team a 2-1 lead in the 28th minute on a penalty boot.
In the second half, Mills scored her other two goals in an 8-minute span to give the Cougars a 4-1 lead.
Breanna Kitchens connected on a direct kick and Tristan Kitchens, her sister, added a goal in the 64th minute for a 6-1 lead. Parker closed the scoring with a goal in the 74th minute.