Published 12:00 am Friday, January 16, 2004

soccer girls continue nursing injuries

[1/16/04]Vicksburg High and Warren Central have 11 days until their playoff openers, and they may need all of them to get healthy.

Two days after a brutal, double-overtime matchup for the Division 6-5A girls soccer championship in which five players were sent to the emergency room, the Lady Vikes and Missy Gators were still licking their wounds.

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“I gave them two days off just to let their bodies recover,” said WC coach Kristin Gough, whose team doesn’t play again until next Friday’s regular-season finale against Murrah. “Next Friday is just another game. We’re more worried about next Tuesday and the playoffs.”

Warren Central doesn’t play a meaningful game until Jan. 27, when it travels to the coast for a first-round playoff game against either Pascagoula or Ocean Springs. The time off will help the Lady Vikes get some of their injured players back, but two are done for the season.

Kari Lieberman broke her leg last Saturday against Hattiesburg, and Mallery Wells suffered a season-ending knee injury against Vicksburg. Julie Spence was also hurt in the loss to Vicksburg, suffering an ankle injury late in the game. Gough said the injury was more serious than first thought, and Spence’s status for the playoffs is uncertain.

Goalie Emily Coker (bruised leg) and Kristine Fischenich (bruised lung) also were taken to the hospital after the VHS game. Both are expected back for the playoffs.

Despite having nearly half her lineup nursing injuries, Gough wasn’t worried about the Lady Vikes’ performance if they’re not ready for the postseason. She said other players have gotten a lot of playing time during the season and are ready to step in if needed.

“The girls that are injured, if I don’t have all of them back I have enough depth,” Gough said. “I think that showed when we had six starters out and we’re still in double-overtime (against VHS). We’ve been very fortunate this year, with wins and losses, that most of our players have gotten a lot of playing time.”

Vicksburg won the game against WC, 2-1, but didn’t come away from it unscathed.

Lucy Matthews, Beverley Simmons and Brandi Parker aggravated old injuries, and Holly Head suffered a chest bruise that made it hard for her to breathe. None practiced on Thursday, and they won’t play in tonight’s game against Forest Hill.

Vicksburg has five games scheduled in the next nine days, including matchups with state powers Madison-St. Joseph, Clinton and Northwest Rankin. VHS coach Kevin Manton said he wouldn’t push any of his players into games that will serve as good tuneups for the playoffs, but are otherwise meaningless.

“If some of these girls feel like playing, they can play. If not, we’re not worried about it,” Manton said. “We’ve got some good ballgames, but they’re not important. We go out and play well, we’ll be happy. Win or lose.”

If both teams can overcome their injuries and a road playoff game, they will meet for the South State championship on Feb. 3. After being separated by only one goal in two games, both coaches were expecting another hard-fought and intense match without any hard feelings carrying over from the last meeting.

“It’s a rivalry, and it always will be. In every sport, not just soccer,” Gough said. “Anytime we play, it doesn’t matter if there’s anything on the line or not, it’s going to be intense. I hope there’s not any hard feelings, because in the grand scheme of things it’s a sport, and sports are supposed to be fun.”