By Jamie Wachter / Sports Editor
The Meridian Star
There won’t be any special messages today from Alex George to his West Lauderdale girls soccer team.
Instead, as the Knights prepare to play Florence for the MHSAA Class 4A state championship game at 1:30 p.m. at Clinton High School, George just plans to tell his players to give it their best shot.
“It’s kind of surreal in that we’ve punched our ticket and now we’re going and anything can happen,” he said as West is ready to play for a state title for the first time since 2000.
“I think what I’m going to tell the girls pregame is, ‘There’s no reason to hold back now. Let’s just finish it and see what happens.’”
Not holding back will be the easy part. The hard part will be slowing the 15-6-3 Eagles. Led by senior forward Lindy Tabor, Florence possesses a wealth of talent up front that should challenge the Knights. However, West is also playing with a lot of confidence following playoff wins against Northeast Jones and Greene County, no slouches in their own right.
“Same song, second verse,” George said about the Eagles. “They’ve got a really good forward that we’re going to have to deal with. (Tabor) is a really good player, so we’re probably looking to neutralize her a little bit. They’ve got a good center-mid and their right mid, from what I understand, has a lot of speed.
“It’s going to be a similar task probably to Tuesday against Greene County in we try to neutralize them, and try to hit a few counters and maybe get a little lucky, and try to score.”
In helping West win the South State title against Greene County on Tuesday, senior defender Meagan Stewart had the chore of slowing down Wildcats’ star forward Darby Nettles. Her success – along with the help of her teammates – is encouraging for the Knights. In fact, defense has been the Knights’ strength all season.
“About halfway through the season, everything just started t come together and we started to score some goals,” George added. “Our defense, it has always been strong, but we started really finding the back of the net about mid-December, and since then everything has really been gelling for us.”
That improved offensive output, along with the ever-growing confidence, has West soaring high heading into today’s championship match. It also has been a surprising run. West has just two seniors in Kaylyn and Meagan Stewart, both Meridian Community College signees. The Knights also have just four juniors on a youthful roster.
“It’s been a nice surprise because we’re so young,” George said. “It’s been a nice surprise and we’re excited, but at the same time we’re very humbled about the opportunity to represent West Lauderdale and the community.”