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Poplarville soccer narrowly misses postseason

Poplarville’s Lady Hornets soccer team finished the season with a 12-8 record, 4-4 in district.

The team was able to take care of business for most of the season, but some key losses to district opponents kept the Lady Hornets out of the playoffs.

Junior Juliana Wells led the Lady Hornets with 14 goals this season, while junior Evelyn Kimball led the team with eight assists.

Poplarville started district play with a 4-1 loss to Stone County, but followed that performance up with two dominant victories over Forrest County and Purvis.

However, a district loss to Greene County in early January put the Lady Hornets in a precarious position within the team’s district.

Stone County was undefeated in district play, leaving Greene County and Poplarville fighting for the second playoff spot.

The Lady Hornets then defeated Purvis Jan. 7 and the team’s postseason hopes were determined with a matchup against Greene County on Jan. 16.

The two teams were evenly matched and the game remained deadlocked after a full 120 minutes of regulation and overtime soccer.

Penalties decided the match and Poplarville wasn’t able to convert as Greene County won.

The loss meant Poplarville wouldn’t have a shot at the second playoff spot with Stone County and Greene County taking both positions.

Though the Lady Hornets didn’t get into the postseason, Head Coach Beth McShea said the team made some serious progress overall.

The majority of the players will be returning for the Lady Hornets as there were only three seniors on the squad.

That continuity will help the team heading into next season, especially considering how many changes were made to the starting line up heading into this season.

“I think going from the first game jitters of being out there together to the last game they started meshing very well,” McShea said.

McShea said there are still some areas of improvement for the Lady Hornets.

The main focus will be getting the players to be more clinical in the final third.

Poplarville was good at holding possession and creating scoring opportunities offensively.

However, putting the ball in the back of the net was a struggle for the team during certain parts of the season, so McShea said she wants to see her players improve that skill.

“We got hot and then we went cold. There are definitely things to work on for next season like finishing, getting it into the back of the net,” McShea said. The team will now move into the offseason minus a few players who had to move into different classes or are graduating this year.

McShea said she’ll usually give her athletes a week off following the end of the season, but then it will be back to work for the Lady Hornets. Offseason practices are similar to in-season sessions, as the team prepares for a variety of summer games and camps.