Cathedral, Natchez at home as soccer begins in Miss-Lou

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 5, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; With each defeat in the playoffs after a promising regular season in recent years, the Cathedral Green Wave soccer squad has just simmered.

Last year’s 3-2 loss to a strong West Lauderdale squad in the first round of the playoffs gave the Green Wave something to think about all summer, and today the squad with six seniors starts its last chance to make a push deep into the playoffs.

Both Cathedral squads host McComb today at prep soccer gets under way in the Miss-Lou.

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&uot;They’re ready,&uot; first-year Green Wave head coach Rick Freeman said. &uot;They’re chomping at the bit. It’s the first game, and they want to get that out of the way and over. They’ve all really pulled together as a team. The seniors have really stepped up and have taken leadership roles, and it’s been a big help.&uot;

It’s Freeman’s program now to oversee after the departure of longtime coach Rocky Kettering, who resigned prior to the end of the previous school term. The challenge for the Green Wave is step into the bigger spotlight of high school soccer that’s dominated by teams from Vicksburg, Jackson and Meridian.

Last year’s loss to West Lauderdale was the second straight postseason loss at the hands of the dominant program from Collinsville, only the first one was a 10-0 lashing that most of this year’s Cathedral seniors probably won’t forget.

&uot;We’re looking to go as far in the state playoffs as possible,&uot; Freeman said. &uot;We’d like to win it all.&uot;

There’s reason to believe the Green Wave can get over the hump with the core of returners this year, including forward Palmer Rinehart, who was among the team’s leading scorers from a year ago.

The midfielding unit may be strong as well with Nick Anderson, Wyler Murray, Blase Gaud and John Paul Kenda.

&uot;All of them are very strong and have been playing together for several years now,&uot; Freeman said. &uot;They’ve very strong.&uot;

The team’s quest for a fourth straight division title may get the help from an awfully tough non-division schedule. The Green Wave hosts Class 4A McComb and travels to Class 5A Vicksburg on Saturday for the first parts of a home-and-home series with each squad.

There’s also a home-and-home series with St. Aloysius.

&uot;We start off with a tough team, and Vicksburg will be tough,&uot; Freeman said. &uot;Every team will be tough, and we wanted it that way. We want to be challenged all season long.&uot;

It’s the same for the Lady Wave, who will play alongside the boys’ squad against the same competition. The Lady Wave isn’t in the same situation as the boys after it missed the playoffs a season ago, but some key returners are back from a team that just missed out on the postseason last year.

The Lady Wave open today against McComb at 5:30 p.m. and travel to Vicksburg Saturday.

&uot;They’re looking good,&uot; first-year head coach Christine Krupa said. &uot;They’re looking very good, and I’m excited. I think we have a lot of talent, and I think the entire team is a anticipating the game. Everybody is really excited and pumped up. (We’ve got) two really challenging games for our first two games. I think it’ll be a good wakeup call for us to see what kind of people we’re going up against.&uot;

The Lady Wave will have to replace the scoring of Joanna Stubbs from last year, but the team’s defense may be its strong point. There’s good size back there with Claire White at fullback and Lori Scuggs at goalkeeper.

&uot;Our back line is really strong,&uot; Krupa said. &uot;Our sweeper-stopper-fullback combination is looking really good along with our goalie. I’m looking at having a strong defense, but I think we have a strong line of forwards who shoot the ball really well. I expect to see a lot of shots on goal.&uot;

Natchez High

Both the Bulldogs and Lady Bulldogs open the season today when they host both Vicksburg squads. While the boys’ squad continues its building mode under second-year head coach Dennis Hogue, it may have some tricks up its sleeve with the bunch of newcomers out this year.

&uot;I’ve got seven truly experienced players who have played several years, and I’m basically filling in the gaps with newcomers,&uot; Hogue said. &uot;It’s an all-or-nothing kind of thing. We’ve got some very skilled players, then we’ve got some returning players from last year who will be stepping up as first-team players and the rest of them are first-timers.&uot;

The boys’ squad welcomed Keenan Watts, Byron Augustine and Brian Hughes as newcomers, and the team will have Aaron Ratliff and Matthew Henderson back as some of its better players.

With some different personnel and a run through the division last year, Hogue said he’ll change his defensive scheme this year to go with three forwards, three defenders and five midfielders.

&uot;We’re starting off the year with Vicksburg, and I think they’re the toughest &045; but the kids think Warren Central is the toughest,&uot; Hogue said. &uot;I think that (change) will work for us. When we played Vicksburg, Warren Central and Clinton, those guys had such good teams that our midfielders got tired and didn’t come back and help our defense like they’re supposed to. By the end of the game, our midfielders were non-existent.&uot;

On the girls’ side, Hogue will have both Sarah and Stacy Weaver back as two of the team’s better players with Sarah on defense and Stacy on offense.

It’s defense that’s a concern for the Lady Bulldogs, who have some athletes out for the team including Tracy Davis, the left-handed slugger from the school’s softball team.

&uot;My concern with the girls is they can come across as so timid,&uot; Hogue said. &uot;Soccer is a physical sport. I’m trying to let them know at any time somebody is going to shoulder up on you. You’ve got to go hard and go shoulder to shoulder. They’ll get banged around, and they’ll realize it’s part of the game.&uot;

Franklin County

Both Bulldog squads also open the season today. Franklin County will play host to Loyd Star today before traveling to North Pike on Friday.