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Local soccer teams gear up for playoff openers

 

Adam Minichino

 

The New Hope High School boys soccer team wants to keep its historic season going. 

 

To do that, the Trojans will have to protect their home field at 5:30 p.m. today when they play host to Callaway in the first round of the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A North Half State playoffs. 

 

New Hope earned the right to play host to Callaway thanks to a 2-1 victory against Saltillo on Jan. 15. Eric Edwards and Tanner Ryals scored goals to lift New Hope to its first district title in boys soccer. 

 

The New Hope-Callaway match is one of several involving local teams in all classifications. 

 

First-year New Hope coach Jerry Byrd said the Trojans have come together at the right time and have earned everything they have accomplished. 

 

"A lot of credit goes to them," Byrd said. "The sport is important to them and they want to win and be good at it. When they lost four or five games in a row earlier in the season it was kind of tough to keep things positive and to motivate them. But they bought into what we were saying and kept coming to practice and kept working. If you believe and have a good attitude and work at something you will have some success. Fortunately for us that is what happened." 

 

Byrd believes this is the first time New Hope has made the playoffs since 2004 or 2005. He said he expects to face a speedy and skilled Callaway team that features as many as seven Select players. 

 

Byrd said he isn''t sure how his team will combat Callaway''s speed, but he said the players are confident they will be able to extend the season. 

 

"We''re just going to have to match their intensity," Byrd said. 

 

Caledonia boys soccer coach Morgan Mansfield hopes his team can do the same at 6 p.m. today when it travels to Center Hill. 

 

Mansfield scouted Center Hill on Friday in a 1-0 loss to Lewisburg. He feels the Confederates will be all right if they start quickly and take the game to Center Hill. 

 

Caledonia failed to do that last week with a chance to clinch the district title. Instead, Amory scored two first-half goals en route to a 3-0 victory that meant the Confederates would be on the road. 

 

A third meeting against Amory could happen in the North Half State title match, but Mansfield knows neither he nor his players can look that far ahead. 

 

"We just have to go up there and play soccer," Mansfield said. "They seem to be pretty focused." 

 

Mansfield hopes the experience the Confederates (11-4) gained last season when they advanced to the North Half State title match will help them this season. He also will look to defender Kye Van Someran to play a key role on both ends of the field to spark the Confederates. 

 

"I think it''s going to be a good match," Mansfield said. "I am looking forward to it." 

 

On the girls side, New Hope, which shared the Class 5A, Region 1 title with Saltillo but took second on goal differential, will travel to face Ridgeland. The Lady Trojans are coming off an 8-0 victory against West Point in which it honored seniors Paris Carey, Harley Tedford, Morgan Hardin, Aleni Bryant, and German exchange student Chrissy Lokaj.  

 

Coach Mary Nagy, whose twin daughters, Aimee, Krysta, were part of the last New Hope team in 2003-04 to make the playoffs, said the Lady Trojans (10-6) have practiced well since the end of the regular season and are ready to give it their best shot against the No. 2 team in the state. 

 

"We told them if they play their game and stay close hopefully things will turn out to their advantage," Nagy said. "We talked about nerves (Monday) and using that nervousness to their advantage and to help them have that energetic moment. We told them that there will be nerves on both sides because it is a new season and everyone is 0-0." 

 

Nagy said Ridgeland will be the best team New Hope has played this season, and that the team''s defense will needs its top effort to keep the match close.  

 

Caledonia (9-9) is coming off a 4-2 week and hopes to ride that momentum into its match at 6 p.m. today at Lafayette.  

 

Coach Jason Forrester expects his team to be back at 100 percent after not having a complete lineup for the past two games against Amory and Kosciusko. 

 

Forrester thought last week that the Lady Confederates would play Center Hill in the first round, but he had to adjust his plans after Center Hill struggled down the stretch. As a result, he believes his team will face an opponent that will come right at it and play aggressively, which is nothing new to his girls. 

 

"They''re a quality opponent and they play hard and are hard nosed," Forrester said. "It should be a close game." 

 

Forrester said the difference today will be defense. He wasn''t pleased last week when the Lady Confederates repeatedly made stabbing attempts to slow Amory attackers. The Lady Panthers capitalized and used their speed to move through the defense en route to a 6-1 victory. 

 

Today, Forrester hopes his players are focused and have put that loss behind them. 

 

"They have been working pretty well here as of late," Forrester said. "They seem to have more confidence and a pep in their step. I think they tried to do too much against Amory and got overextended, which allowed Amory to make better runs." 

 

 

Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.

 

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