By Ernest Bowker/Vicksburg Post
VICKSBURG – Neither rain, nor cold, nor Vicksburg’s best effort could derail Tupelo in its drive toward a state championship.
Georgia Russell and Haley Walker scored two minutes apart early in the second half, and Tupelo advanced to the state semifinals for the second consecutive season with Monday’s 3-0 win over Vicksburg.
In a rematch of last year’s Class 5A semifinal, Tupelo (19-2) will host Madison Central tonight at 6 for the Class 6A North state championship. The winner will face either Biloxi or Ocean Springs on Saturday in Clinton for the 6A title.
“It’s good,” said Russell, who also scored a goal in the first half. “I think we’ll have a really big crowd, and last year we lost to them 1-0 so we’re glad to play them again.”
Tupelo coach Shelley Miller was hoping the quick turnaround wouldn’t be costly.
The quarterfinal against Vicksburg (10-10-3) was delayed two days by a winter storm that made weekend travel difficult. That forced the Lady Wave to make a 10-hour round trip bus ride to Vicksburg on Monday, return home around midnight, then play again about 18 hours later.
“You hope it doesn’t affect you a lot, but you know it will,” Miller said. “We had really hoped to finish some of the opportunities we had early in this game and then rest some players, but that didn’t happen.”
The weather in Central Mississippi on Monday wasn’t much better than it had been all weekend. A steady drizzle turned the Memorial Stadium turf into a soggy mess, and a temperature of 40 degrees chilled players and fans alike.
The muddy field negated some of Tupelo’s speed advantage, while a staunch Vicksburg defense did its best to take even more away.
Russell starts it
Russell scored in the 15th minute of the first half after weaving around three Vicksburg defenders and juking the last one for a 1-0 lead. She made a similar run in the 13th minute of the second half, meandering from the left side of the field to the right before beating the keeper with a shot into the upper left corner.
Tupelo put the dagger in moments later. Walker took a pass along the left side, made a run similar to Russell’s and scooted her shot low to the left side to make it 3-0 with 25 minutes left.
“We knew the longer we kept it close, the longer their adrenaline would pump and the better they’d play,” Miller said. “We had to take them out of it.”
The Missy Gators only recorded one shot on goal the entire game, and even that was accidental. With about 10 minutes left in the first half, a hard-struck pass skipped off the turf and through a group of three players at the 12-yard line. Tupelo keeper Kat Stratton easily scooped it up for her only save.
“That team is very, very fast,” Vicksburg coach David Case said. “You’ve got to try to prepare for that. When you do that, you cut down some of your offensive weapons. I saw some great combinations, but we couldn’t punch it through their defensive line.”