Two Northeast Mississippi first-year high school soccer coaches – Pontotoc’s McKinley Holland and Mooreville’s Baden Honeycutt – have led their teams to this week’s state semifinals.
Holland’s Lady Warriors defeated two-time defending state champion Florence, 1-0, on the road.
“It was a huge win,” Holland said. “Florence was as good as I thought they’d be. We definitely won the game … they didn’t lose it.”
Honeycutt’s Lady Troopers knocked off visiting Choctaw Central 1-0 for the program’s second straight postseason win.
“My girls have grown a lot since the beginning of the year,” he said. “I’m excited for them. They know they deserve it.”
Masters of defense
The playoffs are scheduled to resume today, but Pontotoc’s Class 4A home match against Richland (14-7-2) has been moved to 5 p.m. Wednesday because of the threat of rain.
The Lady Warriors (16-4) are powered on offense by center midfielder Shelby Drope and forwards Summer Jensen and Keyara Hobson.
Holland, however notes, his team has relied on its strong defensive play all season.
“That’s been our backbone; it’s who we are,” he said. “We like to shorten the game and grind you out.”
Three seniors – keeper Kate Hester, Karlee Grisham and Rebekah Miller – are in the defensive rotation.
Mooreville (15-2-1) is scheduled to host South Pontotoc (15-2-2), a state finalist last season, in a Class 1A-2A-3A match at 4:30 p.m. Thursday. The game was moved from today because of weather.
Honeycutt watched South Pontotoc’s 7-0 playoff win against McLaurin.
“They’re a solid team,” he said. “They’re always around the ball. Coach (Horace) Kitchens has done a great job building that program.”
The two teams tied 0-0 earlier this season.
“It was a hard-fought game,” said Honeycutt, whose team owns a 14-game win streak. “We were still a team in transition when we played them.”
Mooreville, led by seniors Logan Abel, Lakyn Cryder and Madison Parham, had not won a playoff game until this season.
The challenge will be to stop South Pontotoc’s one-two scoring punch – 50-plus goals – of Tristan Kitchens and Judith Mills. The Lady Cougars have scored 19 goals in two playoff games.
Lady Wave on road
Tupelo’s Lady Wave (14-2), looking to return to the title game, travels to Madison Central at 5 p.m. on Wednesday for its 6A semifinal.