POPLARVILLE, Miss. — Pearl River's women's soccer program will open its postseason march Monday against a familiar postseason foe. A year ago the Wildcats eliminated Itawamba 2-1 in the MACJC quarterfinals. The Wildcats and Indians will tangle once again Monday at 11 a.m. after ICC eliminated Gulf Coast 4-0 on Wednesday in Fulton.
Hinds is hosting the semifinals and finals. The tournament was originally scheduled to take place Saturday and Sunday but was moved to Monday and Tuesday due to the threat of inclement weather in the Raymond area.
PRCC clinched its first MACJC South Division title since 2015 to earn a bye in the quarterfinals.
Admittedly, first-year head coach Henrik Madsen wasn't quite sure how his Wildcats stacked up against the MACJC field when he took over the program in the spring. He said it didn't take long to figure out his squad had a chance to do something special.
"I really wasn't sure what I was walking into," he said, "but I knew after the first couple of games when I was able to figure out the level and where we were at."
The Wildcats (8-3-2 overall) were undefeated through their first seven matches before falling at ICC 1-0. The Wildcats went on to win three of their final five matches to close out the season — punctuated by a 3-0 victory at Southwest in the regular season finale.
"I think we're in a good place," Madsen said. "They feel comfortable and confident where we are. Now it's just a matter of finishing our chances in the playoffs."
The Wildcats are averaging 3.15 goals per contest this year while holding opponents to just 0.75. PRCC boasted a team attack with five players registering at least four goals. Maddie Beets (Long Beach) leads PRCC with eight goals and is tied with Laura Bau Magleau (Belo Horizonte, Brazil; Colegio Sao Miguel Arcanjo) with six assists.
Briana Carr (Laurel; West Jones) isn't far behind with seven goals. Zigi Ahortor (Accra, Ghana; Wesley) and Jade Shaw (Carriere; Pearl River Central) have scored five goals apiece, with Victoria Stewart (Pearl River, La.) adding four.
New keeper Paige Horsnell (London, England) is 7-3-2 on the year with two shutouts. She has a 0.81 goals against average and .778 save percentage.
"Right now we're just working on keeping the intensity, working on set pieces and making the girls as comfortable as possible," Madsen said. "I think we're as healthy as we can be at this point in the season. I think they're ready."
SCOUTING THE INDIANS
ICC (15-4) finished second in the North and was relegated to the quarterfinal round against MGCCC as a result.
The Indians have scored 62 goals on the season, led by Emily Hayward's 16-goal performance. Grace Joyce isn't far off the team's lead with 12 goals.
Anna Wesleigh Driskell has been among the MACJC's top keepers all season. She enters the match with a 15-3 record. She boasts a 1.68 GAA and .764 save percentage.
"Obviously we look forward to the challenge," Madsen said. "They're really well coached. It will be a close game.
"We're looking forward to a rematch after the loss up there."
The winner advances to face the winner between Holmes and Jones College at 3:30 p.m. Sunday.
HOW TO WATCH
11 AM: Women's semifinals – Pearl River vs. Itawamba
1 PM: Women's semifinals – Holmes vs. Jones College
4 PM: Men's semifinals – Pearl River vs. Gulf Coast
6 PM: Men's semifinals – Hinds vs. Jones College
3:30 PM: Women's State Championship – Winners of semifinal games
6 PM: Men's State Championship -