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Poplarville soccer coach happy with season’s progress

The Poplarville Hornets soccer team has a 2-1 record in district play, which means the squad is in the mix for one of the two playoff spots.

Poplarville went into the holiday break riding high on a 6-1 win over the Purvis Tornadoes, but will now be put to the test as the pressure intensifies.

Only seven games remain in the regular season for the Hornets and five of those match ups will be against district opponents.

Looking back at the beginning of the season, Head Coach Luke Gipson said he is happy with the spot his squad is in.

The team had to replace multiple starters, so there were some growing pains along the way.

Now things seem to be clicking for the Hornets, who have lost only one of their last six games.

“I think the best thing we did was win the games we were supposed to win. We also played really well in the games when we were underdogs and grew from that experience even if we didn’t win,” Gipson said.

Gipson said his team is right where he thought they’d be heading into the later portion of the season.

The growth has been evident as the team has started scoring more, while simultaneously tightening up defensively.

As the players have spent more time on the pitch they’ve become more familiar with each other’s style of play.

That knowledge has led to improved performances on the field, which has resulted in more victories for the Hornets. “Any time you have new starters and they’re playing together for the first time they’re learning how to trust each other. Now they have that sense of, ‘if I mess up the guy behind me will make up for it,’” Gipson said. Even though the team has been on a bit of a tear recently doesn’t mean Gipson thinks the squad is perfect.

There is still work to be done to make sure the players understand their roles.

No matter a player’s position, they have an effect on the overall outcome of the match and Gipson wants his players to do a better job of understanding that concept.

“Even if they’re not on the ball or around it they have to understand that far side field presence helps. It’s a total effort from keeper to striker to score a goal,” Gipson said.

More district games means the Hornets will be putting their playoff hopes on the line every time they take the field. There aren’t a lot of seniors on the team.

However, their leadership along with the upperclassmen is important when getting the younger players to understand the gravity of the upcoming match ups.

“They know when you come back from Christmas break the importance of the district games. It really intensifies,” Gipson said.

Poplarville’s next game will be on the road at district rival Green County on Jan. 6.

It’ll be a tough test for the Hornets and the winner will be a game closer to clinching a playoff spot.