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Poplarville soccer embracing physicality

The boys soccer team for Poplarville faced an undefeated Stone Tomcats team Monday night to begin district play. Monday’s game came after a 4-0 drubbing of Sumrall on Dec. 5.

Head Coach Luke Gipson said the plan going into the game was to match Stone physically and force the Tomcats to play long balls over the top.

The plan worked, but a few mental lapses saw the Hornets lose 3-1.

“They won the match, but there were a couple goals I felt like we lost a little bit of focus,” Gipson said.

Poplarville has, for the most part, been able to bully opposing teams and prevent them from keeping possession of the ball.

Against Stone, the teams were evenly matched, so the Hornets weren’t able to take advantage of their physical nature.

The team went down early in the game, but Gipson said he liked his player’s mental fortitude.

In previous seasons the Hornets may have folded, but not this year.

“In years past it would have been such an aggravation that they would get down on themselves and I don’t think they did that,” Gipson said.

Instead Poplarville kept fighting and a penalty kick from midfielder Gavin McGowan gave the Hornets momentum heading into halftime.

Stone held on for the win, but it was a positive step for the team nonetheless.

Poplarville plays a possession-based style of soccer and Gipson said they were able to move the ball well around the pitch against Stone.

The issue was making dangerous inroads in the final third, which hindered the Hornets’ ability to score.

“We would ping it around and possess it, then would make one too many moves at center mid or even from the wings and lose it,” Gipson said.

Doing a better job with through balls and throw ins will be the focus in practice as the team prepares for its match against Forrest County Agricultural.

Trae Wilson will be joining the team now that his responsibilities with the football team have ended, so Gipson wants to take advantage of his long throw in abilities like the team has with winger Bryson Andrews.

The game against Forrest County will be Poplarville’s second district game and the Hornets can’t afford to start 0-2 in district.

After the loss to Stone, Gipson said he wants to see how his team reacts in the game against Forrest County.

“I want to see how they handle the game after such a tough test. Will they follow the 24 hour rule and move on, or will they carry a little negativity with them?” Gipson said.

Either way the team can continue to rely on goalkeeper Donovan Minor to keep the team in the game with his saves and distribution.

“He’s everything you can ask for as far as effort and loyalty. He did really well (against Stone) as a sophomore and he’s gaining confidence, but he gained a lot of respect from his peers,” Gipson said.

Kickoff between the Hornets and Aggies is set for 7 p.m.