By Gene Phelps
SPRINGVILLE – The way coach Horace Kitchens sees it, South Pontotoc left a state championship trophy on the artificial turf at Clinton High School last season.
He’d like to go back next month and grab it.
“I think if we keep improving, we can make a run,” Kitchens said. “Our goal is to go back to state.”
South Pontotoc, 14-6 a year ago, lost 4-1 to Hattiesburg’s Sacred Heart, but the 1A-2A-3A title match was closer than the score. The South state champs scored their go-ahead goal in the 59th minute, then added two late.
The Lady Cougars have a 10-1-2 record his season. The team went 2-0-1 in the recent Oxford Tournament, taking wins against South Panola and the Tupelo junior varsity. They tied 2-2 with Madison St. Joseph.
“The key to having success (in the postseason) is to have more depth,” said Kitchens, a former Mississippi Highway Patrolman, who is in his 12th season as coach. “We really miss Breanna Kitchens and Anna Mills, they are two of the best I’ve coached. Still, we’ve got more depth than we had last year.”
The Lady Cougars, Kitchens notes, also have their share of talented players. One is Kitchens’ daughter, Tristan, a senior forward and Northwest Mississippi Community College signee.
Kitchens has scored 25 goals this season, including five in the Oxford tournament.
Judith Mills, a starter last season as a seventh grader, plays the other forward spot. She scored six goals in Oxford.
“She’s too young to know how to be lazy,” Horace Kitchens said last season. The same holds true this season. “She’s tough and she never quits,” he said.
Mattie Mills, a junior center midfielder, makes sure the forwards get plenty of scoring touches.
“She’s a good passer,” Kitchens said. “She knows the game.”
Kaley Sims, a senior, is the team’s anchor on defense as a center defender while junior Breauna Holly, who has eight shutouts, is the returning goalkeeper. She had nine shutouts last year.
“I expect a lot out of my players and so do they,” Kitchens said.