Wildcats face Laredo in South Region semifinal match

POPLARVILLE – Although Pearl River Community College was happy to win the MACJC/Region 23 State Tournament men’s soccer championship, there was also a business-as-usual attitude.
The Wildcats earned their fifth state title in six seasons this past weekend, advancing to the NJCAA South Region Tournament at Tyler, Texas. PRCC faces Laredo (Texas) at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the tournament semifinals.
“That’s why I came here, to win a state championship,” said PRCC coach Drew Gallant, now in his second season at the helm. “This program expects to play for championships in our league.
“We missed a year last year, when we were rebuilding a little bit, but this year I thought all along that we had a group that could get us back on top.”
The Wildcats (10-6-1) did it with defense and superior play in goal. PRCC shut out all three opponents it faced in the playoffs, defeating Hinds 1-0 in the opening round at Poplarville, then defeated East Central 3-0 in the semifinals.
Pearl River and Mississippi Gulf Coast played to a 0-0 tie in the championship game, and the Wildcats won the overtime shootout 4-1 to decide the winner.
Redshirt freshman Kobe Lie (Hattiesburg) had 11 saves against the Bulldogs, then stopped the first two shots he faced in the shootout to pave the way for victory.
“All year, Kobe has been great,” said Gallant. “We love having Kobe in goal, and the boys do too, because when we make a mistake in the back, we feel confident that Kobe can make up for it.”
Lie, a product of North Forrest High School, has 122 saves this season. He was named MACJC Goalkeeper of the Week for the third time this week after recording 26 saves in the playoffs, and he was named NJCAA national Goalkeeper of the Week for the second time this season.
Laredo (12-5-0) finished second in Region 14 to defending national champions Tyler. The Palominos have won five of their last six games. They have scored 34 goals this season, while allowing 19.
“We got film from a couple of their games, and we’re starting to break it down,” said Gallant. “As you might expect, they have a lot of Latinos on their roster, so you know they can play.”
The big offensive weapon for PRCC this year has been freshman Jevaun Ennis (Maypen, Jamaica), who has nine goal for the Wildcats. Freshman Bo Bowman (Bay St. Louis) has four goals and five assists, and redshirt sophomore Parker Rose (Bay St. Louis) has four goals and four assists.
The backfield – sophomores Spencer Martin (Spring, Texas), Mark Johnson (Bay St. Louis) and redshirt sophomore Kyle Estess (Laurel), along with freshman Joe Elliot (Leicester, England) – has also been stout for the Wildcats, especially late in the season.
“I knew at the beginning of the year that we had something good going.” said Estess. “And as we got halfway through the season, I knew we had a shot.”
The semifinal winner will face the winner of the other semifinal between Gulf Coast (13-3-1) and host Tyler (17-2-0) in the regional championship game at 5:30 p.m. Saturday. The region champion advances to the NJCAA Division I National Tournament Nov. 13-18 at Prescott, Ariz.

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