By GENE PHELPS
There is a possibility that Tupelo might be without the services of its leading scorer – all-state forward Hannah Weatherly – for today's state semifinals playoff soccer match against Clinton.
Weatherly suffered from strep throat last week, but played in Tupelo's 2-1 shootout win Saturday in the quarterfinals against Madison Central. However, her coach lists her as “questionable” for today's game.
“She's going to the doctor (Monday); she's still sick,” Tupelo coach Shelley Miller said. “I'd say she's questionable.”
Weatherly attended the team's indoor practice session Monday, but did not participate.
No. 1-ranked Tupelo (17-0-2) plays its first MHSAA Class 5A playoff game on the road at 5:30 p.m. today against Clinton (17-7-2).
Tupelo defeated Madison Central and Northwest Rankin on its home field to reach the semifinals. The Arrows beat Vicksburg and Grenada.
Today's winner will play South finalist Oak Grove or Brandon at 2 p.m. Saturday for the state championship at Millsaps College in Jackson.
“We're playing really well right now,” Miller said. “We've beaten some of the best teams in the state.”
Tupelo has played without Weatherly in a key playoff game before … unfortunately, with season-ending results. In last year's state quarterfinals, the Wave was upset by Madison Central while its star was sidelined with mononucleosis.
“We've played without her some this year,” Miller said. “We've got others who can step up.”
One of those is forward Jessica Miller, who is second on the team with 12 goals. Mallory Britt, a forward, and Meghan Brown, midfielder, can also provide scoring. Brown had the second goal in Tupelo's 2-0 win against Northwest Rankin.
Tupelo also relies on its strong defense, led by midfielder Lydia Rice and goalkeeper Laura Hamm.
Their job's not an easy one. They will have the task of containing Clinton's Nikki Bush and Mallory Coleman. Bush is just returning from a knee injury (ACL) in the offseason that required surgery.
“Bush is not 100 percent, but she's still dangerous distributing the ball,” Miller said. “Coleman's a dangerous midfielder who can score.”
The Wave has beaten Clinton three times this season by scores of 3-1, 3-1 and 2-1. Still, Miller said the Arrows are difficult to prepare for.
“Madison Central is more of a possession-oriented team,” she said. “Clinton plays more of a direct game. They kick the long balls rather than passing it around midfield.”