By David Wheeler/Special to the NEMS Daily Journal
PONTOTOC – Slow and sluggish is usually not a good thing in the playoffs.
But the Pontotoc Warriors were able to overcome being off the pace early with a 7-0 victory over Senatobia on Tuesday in the first round of the Class 4A state soccer tournament.
“We came out a little slow, a little sluggish,” Pontotoc head coach Michael Loden said. “But we picked it up, and began playing with a little bit of intensity.
“Then we were able to put it away in the second half.”
With the victory, Pontotoc (16-3-1) advances to Saturday’s second round, where they will travel to New Albany, an overtime winner against Germantown.
Pontotoc was well into the first half before finding the back of the net. A loose ball found the foot of Austin Gentry, who deftly deposited his shot in the left corner of the Senatobia net for a 1-0 Pontotoc lead at the 22 minutes, 10 seconds mark.
Getting into the flow, Pontotoc scored twice more in the half.
Off a free kick, Diego Pizzaro also found the left side of the net at the 14:36 mark. Then capping the scoring in the period, Rafael Vidana came down the middle of the field, striking the ball over the Senatobia goalie for a 3-0 lead.
“We had some good goals in the first half,” Loden said. “But I think were a little too excited, and missed some shots we usually make.”
While the Pontotoc offense was revving up, the defense was solid all night long, not allowing a Senatobia shot until more than halfway through the second half.
Pontotoc clinched the victory in the second period with two goals by Fredy Gutierrez, and goals by Brayden Timmons and Pierce Burchfield.
“Our defense has been our strength all season,” Loden said. “That has allowed us to attack more, and that’s what we did to begin the second half.”