Record setting year for Poplarville’s boy’s soccer team

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Head Coach Luke Gipson knew his squad could accomplish the unthinkable, and because of that he let his squad know his expectations for the coming season.

“This past season was a huge milestone for our program,” Gipson said.

“We knew we had a talented team, so we set ambitious goals to win our first district championship and break the school’s single season record of 13 wins.”

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The Poplarville Varsity Soccer team did just that, and was able to set a new school record with 16 wins this past season.

Gipson credits a culture shift within the program for the team’s recent success. He said the past few years had been in preparation for this past season and that it was a culmination of everyone’s hard work that got the team to where they are today.

“In the past two years, we worked hard to create a culture change, and it all paid off in year three,” Gipson said.

Before each season, the team and coaches decide on a motto they’ll use for the upcoming season, and this past year it was “Finish Strong”.

“It started with an intense workout program in the preseason to build strength and stamina,” Gipson said.

“We wanted to be able to play with the same intensity no matter if it’s minute 1 or 79 of the game.”

Gipson said the reasoning behind the motto was that during the 2017-2018 season the team struggled to have enough energy in overtime. In response, Gipson and his staff knew that endurance would be key in allowing the team to continue playing their best when the going got tough.

That conditioning of the squad helped them move through the season and still be confident in their abilities even during high-pressure situations.

“Towards the end of district play we knew we needed one more win to clinch the district title, so we had tons of pressure riding on each game,” Gipson said.

“With them experiencing that tension, and coming out on top to win the title, I think we will have more confidence in those tight situations this year because they’ve been there and know what it takes to be successful.”

The squad for the upcoming year will feature a mix of veteran players and new talent. With key players like Tres Ray and Bradley Stines graduating, the younger members of the team will have to step up.

The return of a decent sized junior class that saw time on the field last season should help fill gaps within the lineup.

“We have a solid defensive line returning for us, led by senior Sonny Davis,” Gipson said.

“We have a large junior class that got great experience last year in some high intensity games especially in the playoffs, and I’m looking for them to transition smoothly into leadership roles on the field.”

To make that transition easier, the squad is attending a team camp in order for the younger players to get some more experience. Gipson said the summer is about creating identity and cohesion within the team.

“I expect for this team to compete hard, play well together, and continue to build on the winning culture we established last season,” Gipson said.

“We’ll be a young team, but I’m looking for them to be a close-knit group.”