Girls’ soccer at Poplarville bounces back

Published 7:00 am Friday, June 21, 2019

The girls varsity soccer program at Poplarville High School had a rough season two years ago going 0-8 in district.

However, this past season the girls flipped the script with the squad ending with a 5-3 district record, good enough for second place.

Head Coach Beth McShea said the turn around was due to a mixture of young talent performing well and group chemistry improving.

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“The girls really clicked well, and we got the passing game together,” McShea said.

“We had a lot of young kids step up and because of that we were able to have a lot of subs and not get too winded.”

In high school, soccer teams can sub as often as they’d like.

Having a large squad can help the athletes maintain their energy throughout the entirety of a game.

The team seemed to truly hit its stride when the girls came together and started having faith in each other’s abilities, she said.

“We had to get them to buy in to realize they’re good when they play together,” McShea said.

“This was the first year they trusted each other on the field. When you trust your teammates it makes your job easier.”

The players also wanted to show outsiders that what happened the previous year would not be repeated.

McShea said the girls were intent on improving, and that they came together to prove themselves.

“Once it was their opportunity they just wanted to prove their place and then we got on a roll in district,” McShea said.

“They wanted to prove me and everybody else right that we shouldn’t have gone 0-8 and that they could change that.”

There was also a shift in strategy with the team adopting a more possession-based game.

This allowed the girls to move the ball around with ease, a major difference from past seasons in which the offense was predicated on long balls over the top for forwards to run onto.

This in turn benefitted the team’s stamina greatly.

“We did really well with the passing game and using our center mids to drop the ball back and spread it out wide,” McShea said.

“We did a good job of keeping possession to wear the teams down. If they’re chasing the ball around in the defensive third you can get their backline tired.”

The formation the squad used last season may not change, but with McShea graduating three of her four starting defenders, there will be positions that need to be filled.

McShea is hoping the few seniors she’ll have, and the large junior class, can help with that transition.

“It leaves a big hole, big shoes to fill,” McShea said.

“People who have never played defense will have to step up and some freshman will have to step up.”

Even with those changes, McShea and the squad are aiming for the district title.

After last season’s improvements, McShea doesn’t see any reason for the team to slow down.

“It’s all a credit to the girls,” McShea said.

“They played together, they were tired of hearing 0-8 and they wanted to prove their worth and I expect this year to be just as good.”