POPLARVILLE— There are times when coaches feel compelled to pump up their team prior to taking the pitch. Tuesday won't be one of those times.
"No great speech needs to be given when these two teams play," PRCC women's coach Jack Byrd said ahead of Tuesday's home showdown against archrival Mississippi Gulf Coast. "All bets are off when Mississippi Gulf Coast and Pearl River play. It doesn't matter how my season is going or how her season is going.
"Their team is going to be ready, our team is going to be ready and it's going to be intense."
The women will kick off the night's doubleheader at 5 p.m., with the men scheduled to start at 7 p.m.
The two schools split in their Aug. 31 appearance, with MGCCC's women picking up a 3-1 victory, while the PRCC men earned a 5-1 decision.
PRCC's women (5-6) have found their footing since that early matchup, specifically in the attack, where a number of Lady Wildcats have emerged as scoring options. PRCC has also found continuity across the backline, with Brittney Thompson (Clarenton, Jamaica), Grace Sanders (Oak Grove), Peyton Rounsaville (Leakesville; Greene County) and Cela Neldon (Oak Grove) coming together.
"I think tactically we have gotten better — and you have to be better against Perk because they are tactically sound, where they're supposed to be and they'll punish you if you're not where you're supposed to be," Byrd said. "I feel like we're gelling at the right time. We just took a loss (Sunday), but I felt like we did a lot of things good."
Wildcats coach Drew Gallant has never been above bringing his players back down to Earth. Even after lopsided victories, Gallant hasn't been one to applaud how great his team played.
With that in mind, Gallant won't use the 5-1 score to prop up his players.
"They have a couple really good players who we didn't see last time that could potentially give us problems," Gallant said of two Bulldogs who were ineligible due to cards. "We have to remind them that we may have won but they were missing some key players so it could be a completely different match."
Although the Wildcats (8-2) opened the year with a seven-match unbeaten streak, they have been inconsistent at times down the stretch.
"We have to capitalize on our opportunities," Gallant said. "We create a lot, but we miss a lot, too."
Even with the lull in the final third, PRCC still has several players among the nation's leaders. Jevaun Ennis (Maypen, Jamaica) is 17thnationally with 11 goals and 20thwith 25 points, while Kealan Baggett (Ocean Springs) is fifth with nine assists.
On the other end of the field, goalkeeper Kobe Lie (Hattiesburg; North Forrest) has been as reliable as always. His eight wins currently rank third in the country, while his four shutouts are seventh and his .847 save percentage is good enough for 25th.
As is the case for every home match, Tuesday's doubleheader will be live-streamed on PRCCAthletics.com.