By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
One team stands between Tupelo and a trip to Saturday’s 6A state championship soccer match in Clinton, the Lady Wave’s arch nemesis – Madison Central.
The Lady Jaguars have eliminated Tupelo the last three seasons, including last season’s 1-0 stunner in the state semifinals at THS.
The two clubs – Tupelo (21-0) and Madison Central (19-2-2) – play at 6 p.m. today in Madison in the state semifinals.
“We want to go into the game relaxed and have a good time,” Tupelo coach Shelly Miller said.
Tupelo defeated Clinton 5-0 Saturday at THS in a quarterfinals match. Madison Central, the three-time defending state champion, knocked off DeSoto Central 8-0 in its quarterfinal.
The Lady Jaguars are led by junior forward Marion Crowder and junior midfielder Hailey Brohaugh. Neither played in a 3-0 loss to Tupelo earlier this season.
Crowder’s goal in the first six minutes was the difference in last year’s playoff win against Tupelo. A Georgia commitment, she scored three goals in a seven-minute span to lead the Jags over DeSoto Central.
“She is a very, very, very good player,” Miller said. “Speed is her strength. She gets behind the defender and is technical enough to make something happen.”
Brohaugh, an Alabama commitment, is the team’s playmaker.
“If she can get the ball on her foot and get it to Marion, that’s when they’re the most dangerous,” Miller said.
Tupelo will counter with Alabama commitment Kat Stratton in the goal. On the offensive end, Charde Hannah is coming off a two-goal performance against Clinton.
Two of Northeast Mississippi’s top scorers – Corinth’s John Mathis and Pontotoc’s Fredy Gutierrez – lead their teams into today’s 4A boys semifinals matchup, set for 6 p.m. in Corinth.
Mathis scored on a header to force overtime in Corinth’s 3-2 quarterfinals win against Florence. It was his 30th goal of the season.
Gutierrez scored two goals – he now has 22 – in Pontotoc’s 6-1 quarterfinals win over Lewisburg.
Corinth is a defending state champion, but in 1A-2A-3A.
In two 5:30 matches today, Hernando visits Starkville for a 5A boys semifinal while Oxford travels to Ridgeland for a 5A girls semifinal.
TODAY’S STATE SEMIFINALS
GIRLS: Tupelo at Madison Central, 6 p.m.
GIRLS: Oxford at Ridgeland, 5:30 p.m.
BOYS: Hernando at Starkville, 5:30 p.m.
BOYS: Pontotoc at Corinth, 6 p.m