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Poplarville soccer taking on top tier competition

Sometimes a team’s record doesn’t tell the whole story and for the Poplarville boys soccer team that seems to be the case. The Hornets have lost three consecutive games so far this season, but those losses were against some of the best teams in the state.

Long Beach won the south state championship last year, Germantown was the runner up for the south state championship and Warren Central was a 10-win team last season.

Scheduling top tier opponents was something Head Coach Luke Gipson did purposefully in order to test his team early in the season.

Along with the talented competition the squad has been dealing with some injuries to key players, but Gipson said he’s liked how the team has performed.

“I think they handled playing the games well. We had some guys step up that played really well,” Gipson said.

There are only four seniors on the squad and the learning curve is steep for younger players when transferring from junior varsity to varsity.

The plethora of games in a short time span has allowed the inexperienced athletes to gain some valuable insights into how the varsity game works.

Gipson said scheduling so many games with such talented teams is a good opportunity for his young players to learn and improve before the start of district play.

“It’s a balance for them to learn and grow from it. We really stretched our bench over the past few games,” Gipson said.

Gipson said another benefit of scheduling tough opponents is it draws in coaches from the next level and can serve as good exposure for his senior players. During the team’s tournament over the weekend several junior college coaches were in attendance to do some scouting.

Early season hiccups were to be expected with such a young squad, but Gipson said his players have used the experiences to build each other up.

Remaining positive will be important for the team as they prepare for some more tough games against Hancock and Pass Christian.

During the tournament over the weekend the veteran players talked to the team in between games to keep the mood upbeat.

“At first when they faced that challenge they kind of hesitated for a second, but then we had some guys being positive and the leaders took over,” Gipson said.

The squad is only a couple of games into the season, but Gipson said the team chemistry and bond between the athletes is where it needs to be. As the athletes continue to work on the team’s chemistry there will be some points of emphasis for the players in practices this week.

Poplarville will face Hancock on Nov. 14, but before then Gipson wants his players to improve on their communication, movement off the ball and combination passes.

Gipson knows the type of team his squad will be going up against and he’s interested to see how his players react.

“Hancock is very big, fast and physical so I want to see how we match up physically. I want to see us possess the ball and maintain our ground,” Gipson said.