Missy Gators can stamp ticket to state soccer final|Vicksburg to face Pearl at 6 tonight

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Vicksburg Missy Gators get their third shot at the Pearl Lady Pirates with a berth in the Class 4A state title match at stake.

If you go

6 p.m. – Pearl at Vicksburg, Class 4A state soccer semifinals

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Pearl (15-6-1) won both regular season matches, 2-0 and 3-1, but will need to win a third time on the Missy Gators’ home turf at Memorial Stadium. The semifinal game starts tonight at 6.

Being at home should help the Missy Gators overcome one of their biggest hangups when it comes to playing the Lady Pirates.

“We just seem to be so nervous when we play them and then we make mistakes,” said Vicksburg forward Amelia Hyde. “But we’re so much better now then when we last played them. I think we’ll be able to come out with a lot more confidence.”

The Missy Gators (15-8) are indeed playing their best soccer of the season. They demolished Saltillo 7-0 Saturday afternoon in a second round playoff game at Memorial Stadium. That win comes after a first-round 2-1 overtime road win at Center Hill. The Missy Gators also played well in their last two regular season matches, beating Ridgeland and Forest Hill.

For Vicksburg coach Kevin Manton, the road win at Center Hill was perhaps the biggest key since it helped keep the Missy Gators home for the Pearl game.

“The MHSAA (Mississippi High School Activities Association) tries to equal out the home playoff games,” Manton said. “Pearl was at home for the first two rounds and we’ve had one game on the road. I’d knew we’d benefit if we could get to this round.”

Another factor that could help the Missy Gators is tonight’s forecast of clear skies and a dry field.

“The last time we played them, it was in a driving freezing rain. It was just miserable,” Manton said. “And just like the first game, it was our mistakes that cost us. We just made some bone-headed mistakes.”

Manton describes Pearl as a team that has a strong midfield game backed up by a solid core of young players.

“They have a couple of midfielders who are really good and that’s the strength of their team,” Manton said. “The rest is a good group of young players and they play well as a group.”

Vicksburg counters with a team that is fast on the wings with a good center in Rebecca Wilson. Wilson scored three goals on Saturday to lead the Missy Gators past Saltillo.

“We’re pretty well balanced. Becky leads us with 20 goals and Diari (Gilliam) has 14 and Amelia is right behind that,” Manton said.

“Those three are also the top three in assists. We seemed to be thriving behind Becky, who has become tenacious. When she plays determined, it’s hard to stop her.”

Vicksburg won five state titles in a seven-year span from 1996-2002.


Contact Jeff Byrd at jbyrd@vicksburgpost.com.