Lady Vikes look to make mark, extend season in playoff match with Tupelo
Published 8:00 am Sunday, January 27, 2019
All season long, Warren Central has been hanging tough against some of Mississippi’s top girls soccer teams.
It just hasn’t beaten many of them.
The Lady Vikes have one more chance to change that, though, when perennial power Tupelo comes to town Monday for a first-round game in the MHSAA Class 6A playoffs. Warren Central is 2-3-1 against other Class 6A playoff teams this season, but coach Greg Head said the team has steadily improved and is in a good position to even that record.
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“It’s been a work in progress. A lot of the girls play volleyball, so I didn’t have them for the first couple of weeks of the season and we’ve had to get caught up,” Head said. “We’ve been getting better each game and we’re peaking at the end. We’ve proved it the last couple of games, with playing two good teams tough at the end. We’re ready to play.”
Warren Central (10-5-2) is coming into the postseason off of a 7-0 rout of Terry in its regular-season finale on Thursday. Madelyn Polk scored three goals and Laney Smith had two, while Maddie Watkins and Abby Fuller each had a goal and an assist.
They’re also the Region 4-6A champions for the first time in more than a decade thanks to a 2-1 win over Clinton on Jan. 15.
The Lady Vikes’ most impressive “wins,” however, might be some of their losses. They lost 2-0 to Brandon and 1-0 to Florence, both of whom are ranked among the top teams in the state, in the past two weeks. They also stayed with Northwest Rankin before losing 1-0 earlier this season.
Also among the losses was a 6-0 defeat against Tupelo (7-6-2) on Jan. 11. Although more lopsided than the other losses, Head said it too was valuable as a scouting tool.
“Knowing we were playing them in the playoffs, I didn’t show them the formation we’re going to run. But we found out their weak and strong spots and where they’re playing,” Head said. “The last couple of weeks we’ve played a lot of different formations and been working on different scenarios to be prepared for anything they can throw at us.”
While the Lady Vikes are trying to get over one hump, the boys’ team is trying to overcome a different — if all too familiar — challenge.
The Vikings (9-4-3) will also face Tupelo (17-0-1) in the first round, Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. at Tupelo. The Golden Wave is undefeated and the No. 2 team in the state according to the MaxPreps.com rankings.
It’s a similar scenario to what Warren Central has often seen in recent years. The Vikings have been a playoff regular, have even had some very good teams, but have struggled to break through to the next level against the state’s elite squads.
“It doesn’t matter who we face every year, it’s one of the top teams in the state,” Head said with a chuckle. “We can’t catch a break. Every time we play we’re matched up with one of the top teams.”
Head and the Vikings aren’t bemoaning their fate. They’ve gone 4-2-1 since New Year’s — one of the losses was a 4-0 setback against Tupelo on Jan. 11 — and will certainly be better than some first-round cannon fodder the Golden Wave might have faced.
Like with the girls, Head said he’s been experimenting with different formations and personnel packages the past few games. He’s hoping it’s enough to allow the Vikings to spring an upset.
“We’re shifting some people around, playing different formations, and getting some more depth. We played Brandon a couple of different ways and had some success with it,” Head said. “We played pretty good the last two games. I do know they’re (Tupelo) good. They’re fast, strong and good, and No. 1 for a reason. When we played them before we had chances and could have scored and just didn’t finish. We have to finish a little better this time.”
MHSAA SOCCER PLAYOFFS
Girls – Monday
5:30 p.m. – Tupelo at Warren Central
Boys – Tuesday
5:30 p.m. – Warren Central at Tupelo