The Kosciusko soccer season might have come to an end last week with losses by the boys and girls teams in the MHSAA 4A playoffs, but Coach Greg Cooper took note of a season of accomplishments by both teams.
The Whippets were edged by Pontotoc, 1-0, and the Lady Whippets lost to Mooreville, 5-0, in opening round games at Landrum Field. Both Kosciusko teams advanced to the playoffs as Region 3-4A champions because Raymond, the only other soccer-playing school in the region, defaulted both scheduled games.
The boys’ playoff game was scoreless until Brayden Arratia scored on a breakaway for Pontotoc with 15 minutes left.
“They fought to the bitter end. I’m very proud of the effort they put in,” Cooper said of his players. “Just one let down in our formation and they scored. Sometimes that’s all it takes.”
It was an evenly played game from start to finish, with Kosciusko holding a 13-12 edge in shots. Eli Harlow made nine saves for Pontotoc and Vincent Miller seven for Kosciusko.
Cooper noted improvement in the second half of the season and pointed to a victory over Ridgeland January 15 as a turning point. The Whippets broke a 1-1 halftime tie with two quick goals early in the second half and went on to a 4-2 win.
Looking ahead to next year, the Whippets graduate four seniors, Robert Lindsay, Duntives Fondren, Cody Pope, and Kobe Carter. Cooper gave much of the credit for this year's success to Pope, a defender and the team captain.
“He became the commander on the field. I could hear him screaming what he needed from the team, and the guys rallied around him,” said Cooper. “He's going to be a tough person to replace.”
Mooreville led 1-0 at the half, then added four second-half goals.
Josephine Pittman broke a scoreless tie in the 21st minute on a blast from 40 yards out that was just under the cross bar and just over the fingertips of Kosciusko goalie Alexandra West. Pittman made it 2-0 four minutes into the second half, scoring from in close. Mooreville added goals by Adelin Mathis, Molly Patham and Anna Grace Ward.
Cooper gave credit to Mooreville, which outshot Kosciusko 30-4.
“They attacked us early and often and when you're playing defense and you give up that many shots, they are going to find the back of the net,” he said.
Highlights of the season, in which the girls’ squad finished with an 8-5 record, included strong play in the second half against Ridgeland, a 5A school, and Pearl, a 6A school. The Lady Whippets rallied from a 2-0 halftime deficit to defeat Ridgeland, 3-2.
A second-half rally against Pearl, a traditional power in the sport, came up short. Down 3-0 at the break, the Lady Whippets cut the deficit to 4-3 before Pearl scored a late goal for a 5-3 victory.
The Lady Whippets had only one senior, Macie Alford, in the starting lineup.
A couple of freshmen were Kosciusko’s leading goal scorers, Raven Pernell for the Lady Whippets with 11 and John Gant for the Whippets with seven.
The Pontotoc boys and the Mooreville girls both followed up with second-round victories to reach the North State finals. Pontotoc defeated New Albany, 2-0, and Mooreville edged Newton County, 2-1.