Starkville High School's Sanci Borganelli (31) tries to guide the soccer ball away from traffic on the artificial turf field at Mississippi State during the final regular season match against New Hope. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)
The last time the Starkville Lady Yellowjackets did not have a pleasant experience the last time they played on an artificial turf field.
Due to a large amount of rain and the desire to keep from having their own home field at Yellowjacket Stadium torn up, the Lady Jackets were forced to play their last regular season match against New Hope on the artificial surface at the Mississippi State football practice field.
It did not turn out well as Starkville lost a decision to the Lady Trojans.
If the Lady Jackets are to advance to the Class 5A State championship match, they will have to win at Ridgeland tonight. The 6 p.m. match will be on artificial turf.
SHS girls coach Anna Albritton hopes her team will be able to adjust to the situation better than the last time it saw the surface.
"Of course, we only played on it one time this year, but didn't have the width," Albritton said. "We know the ball is faster (on turf), but we didn't use the width and we didn't have it against New Hope. All I'm really concerned about getting the girls' head straight playing on turf."
The Lady Jackets, who have a record of 8-5-3, have been on top of their game since the playoffs began.
After defeating Oxford 4-0, Starkville also shut out Center Hill at home 2-0 on Saturday.
Albritton has been pleased that the Lady Jackets have been focused on each task at hand and said that must continue at Ridgeland.
"We are physically OK even though we have our injuries, but we may have one girl back (today)," Albritton said. "It's about staying mentally prepared at this level and ready to take on the next level. That's what we've got to work on because the game is there."
The Starkville boys are also on the road in their quest on reaching the Class 5A State championship match for the second consecutive year.
Following their 2-0 victory over Hernando at home Saturday, the Jackets face Oxford on the road tonight. The time of the match is also set for 6 p.m.
Starkville has a close knit group that knows what it's like to win a State championship.
The Jackets, who have a record of 15-1-1, look to the experience of Taylor Wise, Justin Gordon, Juan Salazar, Dylan Howard and others for a repeat performance.
"You've got a solid core offensive group there," SHS boys coach Brian Bennett said. "They've been able to play so long together that they just kind of seem like they know what each other are doing."
Wise says playing together for so many years is an advantage and hopes that familiarity carries the Jackets all the way to another title.
"Coming in our freshman year, our whole group has kind of clicked together," Wise said. "We hang out together, have been friends and played good together the last two or three years now. It's become second nature."
Wise stopped short of saying that this year's team was better than last season's, which claimed the State championship.
He said the teams are different, especially in style of play.
"The way we are now is completely opposite to what it was last year," Wise said. "We're young and smaller this year, but the touch is better. Last year, we were a lot bigger and our touch wasn't as good. We are bigger and faster. It's hard to compare but at the end of the day, I hope we can go back and win State."
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