By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
In order for Tupelo’s Lady Wave to have a shot at becoming the state’s No. 1 team, they first have to beat the nation’s top team, Madison Central, on Saturday.
Tupelo (12-2-1), a Class 6A state finalist last season, plays at rival Madison Central (19-1-2) in the MHSAA soccer quarterfinals at 1 p.m.
“It’s always a great game,” Tupelo junior midfielder Abbie Banko said. “When we play them it feels like a state championship game.
“If we want to get back to the state championship (match), we’ve got to go through them.”
The Lady Wave won its first-round match at home, 4-0 against Warren Central. The Lady Jaguars, rated the nation’s best by MaxPreps, defeated Southaven 9-0.
Tupelo defeated Madison Central 1-0 in last year’s state semifinals, then lost 1-0 to Brandon in the championship game at Clinton High School stadium.
“It’s going to be fun,” Tupelo sophomore forward Katie Taylor said. “They are definitely one of the top teams. We’ll have to play our best.”
Tupelo coach Shelley Miller was pleased with her team’s offensive effort against Warren Central. The Lady Wave attempted 25-plus shots.
“We looked good,” she said. “We were knocking the ball around and doing things we’ve worked on in practice.”
The coach was pleased with her defense, too. Banko, keeper Kat Stratton and defenders Lexie Wise, Margaret Burleson, Maddie Russell and Liza Wise.
“This group of defenders picks up the slack for each other,” Miller said.
Stratton, an Alabama commitment, has recorded 10 shutouts and allowed only four goals this season. She has 26 shutouts over the last two seasons.
Madison Central returns two of its top players in forward Marion Crowder and midfielder Hailey Brobaugh.
Crowder, a Georgia commitment, has 27 goals and 13 assists. Brobaugh has committed to Alabama.