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Poplarville soccer working all aspects of the game

The Poplarville Hornets soccer team started its offseason program just one week after the end of the season.

Head Coach Luke Gipson said he was planning on giving his players more time off following a playoff loss to St. Stanislaus, but the players were ready to get back to work and start refining their game.

The players work out and condition three days a week, while also getting in two training sessions.

Building strength and speed is a big focus during the offseason, but the athletes still need to maintain their skills on the field.

That’s why Gipson has his players splitting time between the workouts and training, to make sure all the bases are being covered.

“While working out and doing this stuff in the offseason we haven’t missed a lick of intensity, and I didn’t know what it would look like. They get after it,” Gipson said.

Poplarville will be losing two defenders and two midfielders to graduation.

The offseason will be a time for younger players to develop and fill in voids left by departing athletes.

Gipson said there are players ready to fill those shoes.

“The younger guys will step up. It’s just about getting them bigger, stronger and filling that spot,” Gipson said. It’s important for teams to be productive during the offseason by getting in better shape, while also fixing issues the team dealt with during the season.

However, the players have to understand the payoff won’t come until the start of next season, so having leaders who keep players on task is important.

Gipson said Seth Santiago, Gavin McGowan and Gavin Lee have all stepped up in a big way to make sure the team is making the most of the offseason.

“It’s productive. I’m really thankful for the environment we have because effort is never an issue. They’ve done really well,” Gipson said.

A main focus for the team during training sessions has been refining players’ ability to take directional touches.

It’s important athletes are able to receive a ball smoothly, so they can then manipulate it into open space without having to take multiple touches.

Gipson said during the team’s playoff game against St. Stanislaus his players struggled with their directional touches, so he’s made that the focus this offseason.

“We would take a touch and it would be too heavy, or back to the guy crashing in on them,” Gipson said.

As summer draws closer weight lifting and conditioning will take a back seat to skills training and team-oriented drills.  Gipson said the team would likely participate in some summer games to give the players some competitive action during the offseason, while also attending a team camp at Pearl River County Community College.

Until then, the focus for the Hornets will be improving speed, strength and specific skills that need work.