Before the calendar turned to August, the last day of July provided the long-awaited start of a new prep sports season in Tate County.
This year, Magnolia Heights girls’ soccer had the honor of kicking things off with a pair of Saturday morning matches in Starkville, where the Lady Chiefs finished 1-2 on the day with a 6-0 win against Lee Academy and a pair of 3-0 and 4-0 losses against East Rankin Academy and Bayou Academy.
“We got off to a quick start against Lee,” Magnolia Heights coach Scott Blaylock said. “Our only issue early was knocking the rust off and then the second half went well. We played quite a few subs and saved our starters for the other two games.”
Two constant themes were on display last Saturday for Blaylock, who now enters his third season in command of the Lady Chiefs’ program – the battles against heat and against injuries. Both issues reared its ugly head in the final two matches of the day.
Already down a couple starters in the win against Lee Academy, Blaylock lost another starter, Larson Howard, to an injury during the 3-0 loss to East Rankin. The loss of Howard, combined with the increasing heat index, helped wear down the Lady Chiefs in the loss and in the final match against Bayou Academy.
“We were down to only two subs in the second match,” Blaylock said, noting that a few others were absent for other reasons. “We also had some silly mistakes and one goal led to the next against East Rankin. (But) even with 10 players against Bayou, they really didn’t play that bad. We were down 1-0 most of the first half and gave up a late goal just before halftime, then were issued a red card and that just added to the deficit.”
Despite the 1-2 start to the season, the Lady Chiefs did have several highlights on the day, especially against Lee Academy. Sophomore Makenzie Nosef led MHS with a pair of goals and two assists, followed by two assists and one goal from junior Kate Ayers. Howard, A.J. Mize and Blaire Harris combined for the final three goals, with Harris earning her first career goal.
Looking to the rest of the season, Blaylock highlighted his core seniors and sophomores, his two largest groups on this year’s roster, while also praising the efforts of his lone junior, Kate Ayers. “She’s just so aggressive out there,” Blaylock said, on Ayers.
“She’s going to be great for us this season. As for the seniors, Taylor Spriggs has also developed into a great player and so has our core sophomore group. I can’t wait to see how Miller Blaylock, Ella Hill, Mackenzie Nosef and Emily Mize progress this season.”
Additionally, goalkeeper Darby Woolever combined for 15 saves in the final two matches, including 11 in the loss to Bayou Academy.
Looking ahead to the rest of the season, Blaylock and his Lady Chiefs will face familiar foes in a smaller district. Gone is powerhouse Lamar School, while only MHS, Starkville Academy and Heritage Academy remain in the newly-formed Division II East.
That, combined with the quick return of his starting unit, has Blaylock optimistic about his program taking the next step.
“I feel that it’s going to be a great season for us,” he said. “Of course, we are going to work for everything we get and nothing is going to come easy, but I firmly believe the playoffs are coming. I really do.”
Magnolia Heights opened its home schedule against Greenville-St. Joe’s on Monday, but due to press deadlines, the recap can be found exclusively on taterecord.com. The Lady Chiefs will host Indianola Academy on Friday afternoon at the Senatobia Sports Park, kicking off at 5 p.m.