By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
A dejected, tearful Abby Phillips sat on the cold, damp artificial turf last season in Clinton, following Tupelo’s stunning 1-0 loss to Brandon in the state championship soccer match.
This week, a cheerful, dry-eyed Phillips was eager to forget the past and embrace the future.
“I feel so good,” the Lady Wave senior midfielder said this week. “We’re all really working hard. It’s going to be a great year.”
Tupelo opens its season at 6 p.m. today, hosting Corinth at SportsPlex.
Phillips, a Mississippi State commitment, has every reason to be optimistic. The Lady Wave returns 11 starters and part-time starters, including goal keeper Kat Stratton, the 2012 Daily Journal Player of the Year.
Stratton and Phillips are joined by defenders Abbie Banko, Maddie Russell, Karli Wood and Margaret Burleson, midfielders Lexi Wise, Bryson Rial and Sarah Lambert Hollingsworth, and forwards Katie Taylor and Smith Ann Childs.
“Experience is always good,” Tupelo coach Shelley Miller said. “Overall, we’re stronger and deeper than we’ve been in the past.”
Tupelo lost some speed from last season’s lineup, which dictated a change in strategy by Miller on how they will attack. Defensively, the Lady Wave will continue to play a flat-back four.
Stratton, an Alabama commitment, allowed only seven goals last season. All of them came on penalty kicks or off corner kicks.
“It’s so reassuring to have her in the goal,” Phillips said.
The Tupelo boys, with just five starters returning, will have a new look this season under second-year coach Harris Faucette.
“We have some younger players who haven’t played on the high school level,” Faucette said. “We’re going to have to depend on them.”
The new-look Golden Wave will get its first test tonight at 7:30 when they host Saltillo at SportsPlex.
Midfielders Alx Little and Taylor Brewer, defender Drew Williams and keepers John Nabors and Keaton Halbert are back. Bryce Hunt, Zach Ellis, Forrest Timmons, Hunter Johnson and Drew White also saw action in last year’s 10-4-5 campaign.
“It’s a work in progress, definitely,” Little said. “We’re working together, working on communication. Everybody’s showing a lot of effort.”