Mississippi Gulf Coast faced Itawamba nearly two months ago to open the regular season. The rematch in the MACJC quarterfinals will end the season for one of the teams.
The teams play in the opening round of the state playoffs at the new MGCCC Soccer Complex on Tuesday at 6 p.m. The Lady Bulldogs (10-3-1) played the Lady Indians (6-7-2) to a 2-2 tie back on August 26 in Perkinston.
“It’s hard to gauge a team when you play them the first game of the year,” Gulf Coast coach Jackie Rhodes said. “Obviously, you’re both inexperienced and not fit like we want to be.”
The Lady Bulldogs, who finished second in the MACJC South, had leads of 1-0 and 2-1 in the first meeting. Jess Shepherd and Erin Longsden scored for Gulf Coast.
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Things other than the experience and fitness levels have changed for Gulf Coast, chiefly its formation. The Lady Bulldogs were in a 4-5-1 but have shifted to a 4-3-3.
That’s one of the reasons the offense has picked up. Gulf Coast has scored 46 goals in 14 games, more than doubling last year’s scoring pace.
“Our attack is very strong now; we weren’t at the beginning of the year,” Rhodes said. “The second half of the year, we just focused on our attack.”
The winner of Tuesday’s game, which will be streamed at http://livestream.com/BulldogLIVE, advances to Saturday’s state semifinals, which will be art of the MACJC Soccer Championship weekend in Perkinston. North No. 1-seed Holmes awaits in the 11 a.m. game.
“We’re super anxious,” Rhodes said. “Everything goes out the window. Records don’t matter, results don’t matter. It’s about who prepared the most. Walking off the field (Sunday) night, I thought to myself we’re ready to play. Hopefully, we can just go out and execute.”