By Gene Phelps | NEMS Daily Journal
Tupelo High girls soccer coach Shelly Miller knows her team cannot look ahead during the postseason.
“We’ve got a tough road ahead of us,” she said.
Tupelo (19-0), ranked No. 1 in the state by the Clarion-Ledger, hosts No. 4 Northwest Rankin at 5 p.m. today in the opening round of the MHSAA Class 6A state playoffs.
To reach Clinton and the Feb. 4 state championship match, the Lady Wave, if they win tonight, would likely have to defeat powers Clinton and No. 2 Madison Central in quarterfinals and semifinals.
“Sometimes that’s better,” said Miller, referring to her team’s potential postseason matchups. “You focus on the next game. You don’t look ahead.”
Tupelo has been eliminated the last three season in the state semifinals by Madison Central.
Miller likes her lineup, which features a blend of youth and experience. It’s led by senior forwards Geena Marshall and Erin Tucker, junior keeper Kat Stratton and sophomore forward Charde Hannah.
Headed into the weekend tournament at Olive Branch, Tucker and Hannah led the Wave with 13 goals apiece. Stratton had given up just four goals.
“We’ve got an extremely well-rounded group,” Miller said. “The scoring is spread out. “We’ve got a great mix. The core group has played together a long time.”
Stratton, an Alabama commitment, says the team’s offensive and defensive balance is a strength.
“We’re good all-around,” she said. “We’ve got a good defense and we have fast forwards. We pass the ball really well.”
MC VISITS WAVE
In an opening-round boys 6A match at 7 today, No. 5 Tupelo (10-3-5) hosts No. 8 Madison Central.
“We are getting better,” said Golden Wave first-year head coach Harris Faucette. “We’re really starting to come together and play well.”
Tupelo’s led by senior Luke Mason, who has scored 13 goals and senior keeper Ben Schaefer who has recorded 58 saves.
Corinth’s boys head into the postseason as defending state champions, but there’s one catch – the Warriors won the 1A-2A-3A title last season. They are in 4A this year.
Corinth’s boys host Cleveland today, after the 4:30 match between the Lady Warriors and Lafayette.
Senior forward John Mathis has 27 goals despite missing some late-season games with a broken collarbone.
In other 4A play, Pontotoc’s Lady Warriors, a state runner-up last season, hosts Germantown at 5. The Pontotoc boys will follow with a first-round match against Kosciusko.