January 25, 2020 8:13:02 PM
Before the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science girls soccer team played its final match of the season Saturday against Yazoo County, MSMS coach Chuck Yarborough gathered his players and went through his team's three principles: Play hard, play together and have fun.
It can be that simple, Yarborough said.
"The two great lessons of team sports are if you work hard at something individually, you'll get better at it, and if you work together, you can make your team better," he said. "That's a life lesson to make your community better. If we're working right and working together, we're gonna smile every once in a while. Not every moment, but every once in a while. If you're not smiling sometimes, you're not doing it right."
On Saturday, as they closed out their season with a 9-1 win, the Blue Waves had plenty of reasons to smile.
MSMS scored twice in the first three minutes, notched six goals in the first half alone and earned a mercy-rule win in just 50 minutes to finish its season with a 7-5 record.
"I don't think I ever stopped smiling, honestly," senior captain Tierah Macon said. "That was really fun."
Macon, the Blue Waves' co-captain and leading scorer, scored two goals in her final high school match, finding the net in the third and 49th minutes. Her first goal was right on the heels of Ashley Mangus' score just over a minute into the match, giving the Blue Waves a 2-0 lead right off the bat.
"When you come out with that kind of start, it kind of reaffirms that you've worked together," Yarborough said. "The passing is there, the team's connecting with one other, and that's a real positive."
MSMS kept piling it on after its initial effort, scoring again just before the six-minute mark. It was the first of three goals for senior Taylor Willis, the Blue Waves' other captain.
"It was a happy note to end it on," Willis said of her hat trick.
Mangus, Niyah Troup, Samaria Swims and Emily Berry each had one goal for an inexperienced MSMS squad. All the Blue Waves are juniors or seniors, but few of them had played soccer before joining the team.
"Two-thirds of our players have little to no soccer experience, so to come out of a season with a winning record when we had so much inexperience I think is a real testament to how hard they worked and how hard they worked together," Yarborough said. "It's a successful season."
With a 2-2 district record, the Blue Waves missed the playoffs this season, but given the quality of opponents like St. Andrew's Episcopal and St. Joseph Catholic, MSMS will take the season it had.
"We have a really competitive district, and Yazoo's one of our less competitive teams, so it was a good way to end it," Willis said.
Macon, who came in with plenty of experience playing soccer, said she saw plenty of improvement from her teammates throughout the year. During the Blue Waves' postgame senior day ceremony, Macon said this season was the best she has had while playing soccer.
"As time went on, everybody got better," she said. "Everybody just progressed into a wonderful soccer player ... I was really happy about it."
On Saturday, MSMS showed the results of that progression, putting together an impressive game to beat the Panthers.
"Our girls played really well together, completed passes, worked hard to get to the ball and challenged the ball," Yarbrough said. "It was a good time."
That good time and the Blue Waves' season, like all good things, came to an end -- but Macon said postgame the impact hadn't hit her just yet. For now, she'll enjoy the win.
"Right now, I'm really happy," Macon said. "I'm not sad yet. It was really nice."
MSMS boys 4, Yazoo County 1
Junior Cameron Wright stole the show on senior day for the MSMS boys team in their 4-1 win over Yazoo County on Saturday.
Wright scored all four goals for the Blue Waves, finding the net in the second, 47th, 50th and 76th minutes to carry MSMS to victory.
"Cameron is a really talented junior leader, and we're looking forward to him to continue to lead next year," said Yarborough, who coached the boys team as well Saturday with boys coach Tim Wood out of town. "It's a great way for him to end the junior season."
A modest Wright downplayed postgame his impact on the field, though.
"Most of them was just tapping it in when the ball was placed right there, so I definitely can't claim the full goal," he said.
Even still, Wright was always around the middle of the field, ready to make an impact. On his third goal, he drove a hard shot that was saved by Panthers goalkeeper Michael Pickens and stayed with it to bury the rebound.
Yarborough said his players were happy with their scoring efforts against Pickens, an "exceptional" goalkeeper who made numerous stellar saves.
"For our boys to be able to finish off four of them in the back of the net is outstanding," Yarborough said. "They're particularly proud of the fact that they could get four against that kid."
With the win, MSMS finished the year with a 5-7 record and a 3-5 mark in district play.
"To finish strong this week against really difficult opponents -- St. Joe, St. Andrew's and now Yazoo County -- it was a good season," Yarborough said.
Wright, in his first year with the team, echoed the sentiment. He's more than content with sending off the Blue Waves' seniors the right way.
"This is the last time I'm gonna be able to grind for an hour with these guys," Wright said.
Theo DeRosa reports on high school sports and Mississippi State softball for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @Theo_DeRosa.
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