The Meridian Star
The West Lauderdale boys soccer team has been able to check off almost all of its team goals this season. The Knights won their district, beat rival Newton County three times and advanced to the state title game.
However, with all of their accomplishments this year, the Knights have just one thing on their minds – finishing.
“That has been our motto all year, to finish,” West Lauderdale head coach Bryan Miley said. “We have done everything we wanted to accomplish this year. This is our last goal and we want to finish it.”
Today's 4A state championship game against Pontotoc at 3:30 p.m. from Clinton High School holds even more meaning for the Knights, as it will be the last game in a West Lauderdale uniform for the team's 13 seniors. Many of those seniors were with the team when it fell to St. Stanislaus three years ago in the state finals. Now, in the Knight's second trip to Clinton in four years, West Lauderdale hopes experience will play a key factor in bringing the title back to Collinsville.
“I really started noticing a difference in these guys this year,” Miley said. “Just the way they worked, their maturity level and that kind of stuff. This group is ready.
“I hope the experience translates. I have been telling them, we have already been there, we have done that, we have seen the turf and know what it plays like. We are not going over there for a sight-seeing trip this time, we are going to finish.”
After a narrow 1-0 victory over Newton County on Tuesday to win the South State, Miley gave his team the day off on Wednesday to regroup. The Knights were back to work on Thursday, watching game film and scouting Pontotoc before wrapping up the week yesterday while participating in a light practice.
“If we don't know what we are doing by now, we ain't going to learn in two days,” Miley said. “We know what we need to do.
“Pontotoc has a really good left forward who has scored most of their goals for them. He as a great left foot, and we need to try to keep him off it. They also have a great center-mid who runs the show for them, but he got a red card in the last game for punching a kid in the groin, and he'll be out for the first half.”
West Lauderdale will look to take advantage of its team speed on the field-turf in Clinton. The Knights quickness is often neutralized by the muddy playing surface on their home field. Miley expects his team to shine today on a much faster surface.
“My plan is to just let my horses run,” Miley said. “We have a lot of team speed, and sometimes that is hard to see because of the soccer fields we play at. It will be a true roll on the ball, and we ought to move it a good bit. We are a lot quicker than people give us credit for.”
With one more goal left to check off, the Knights know how close they are to pulling off their dream season– they just need to finish.
“I think they are ready,” Miley said. “It is what they want. I think they are focused, and I think we are ready to go.”