By Gene Phelps
Hannah Kimbrough knew there would be challenges, especially in her first year as a high school soccer coach.
She didn’t foresee a visit from a starving injury bug.
Tupelo’s Lady Wave saw five of its key players miss playing time during the season due to injuries – center mid Abbie Banko (ankle), outside back Hannah Ellis (knee), center mid Lauren Lasordo (ankle), forward Katie Taylor (ankle) and center back Liza Wise (concussion).
“We were never 100 percent healthy,” Kimbrough said, then smiled. “When you have leaders on your team not on the field, it hurts.
“At the same time, we were able to get a lot of young players on the field. That will benefit us as we look ahead.”
Tupelo, despite not having its team at full-strength all season, finished with a 19-4 record and lost in the Class 6A state semifinals to eventual champion Madison Central.
For her effort on the sidelines in keeping her team in state contention, Kimbrough has been selected the Daily Journal’s 2014 Coach of the Year in girls soccer.
Mooreville’s Baden Honeycutt and Pontotoc’s McKinley Holland – also new coaches – were also considered for the award.
Ten years ago Kimbrough – then known as Hannah Weatherly –was named the state’s top soccer player following her sophomore season at Tupelo High. That season, she led the Lady Wave to their second of three state championships during a four-year span.
“Who knows what might have been this season had we been healthy,” Weatherly said. “Those players were part of our core group. Not having them out there hurt us in the end.
“Madison Central is a good, strong team with speed. To beat a team like that you need all your guns.”
Kimbrough called her first season a learning experience.
“We faced adversity,” she said. “As players we had to have people step up. As a coach I had to learn from my mistakes. I looked at it as a learning opportunity … a chance to become better.
“It’s not all about wins and losses.”