SALTILLO – Both Amory soccer teams closed out their summer seasons at the Saltillo Tournament on Friday and Saturday with coach Nathan Clayton saying the tournament was a valuable experience for two teams that will both be young in spots coming into the 2019-2020 season in November.
The Lady Panthers had mixed results on Friday, battling to a pair of ties with Lewisburg and Tupelo Christian but suffering losses against Saltillo and Tupelo.
“I’m really pleased with all the girls today and the whole summer,” Clayton said. “A lot of them had to play a lot of different positions, and we have ran out some different formations this summer. It’s been good to expose them to that, and there really hasn’t been anything we have done that we thought we needed to scrap because there was no way it would work. I’m pleased with the effort from a lot of these girls.”
Amory lost 2-0 to Saltillo in the first game, but then finished with a 1-1 tie against Lewisburg. Morgan Mitchell scored an early goal that held up until Lewisburg tied it in the final minutes.
Against TCPS, the Lady Panthers overcame a 2-0 deficit to finish with the 2-2 tie, scoring both goals in the second half.
Christi Carol Smith found net on the first goal after a long pass from Emma Coggin, then Alexy Smith tied the game late with her goal off a Morgan Mitchell assist.
Mitchell scored her second goal of the day in the first couple of minutes against Tupelo, but the Lady Wave fought back to get the 2-1 win in the final game.
“Morgan had a good day overall, and in that last game, Riley (Todd) played really well,” Clayton said. “Christi Carol did better as we got into the game, and Alexy had a pretty good day. Campbell (Erickson), Emma (Coggin) and Emma Pinkerton were all good defensively for us today, and Connor (Stevens) made some good saves. Emma (Gore) had some good moments, and we kind of moved her around some. We had her outside some and inside some.”
Clayton complimented his four incoming seniors – Coggin, Mitchell, Stevens and Chloe Tomlin, all of whom have started for several seasons.
“They have definitely been starting since eighth grade and played a lot since seventh,” he said. “They are right down the middle. We have Morgan up top, Chloe at center midfield, Emma at center defense and Connor in the goal. A lot of what we can do with everyone else is all based off them, and we are going to need them to be really good leaders when we come in this fall.”
Staying healthy will be a priority as the Lady Panthers only have 19 on their roster.
“Our numbers are definitely our biggest concern,” Clayton said. “We had some girls who didn’t come back and a few who moved as well.”
The Panthers finished with a 1-2 record on Saturday in their portion of the Saltillo Tournament. They were shut out 3-0 against Pontotoc to start the day, then picked up a 5-0 win over host Saltillo.
Landon Koehn posted the shutout in the goal, while Gunnar Williams scored a pair of goals. Reed Stanford, Bryn Camp and Santiago Perez all added one goal each. Camp, Terrell Atkins and Clayton Reese all had assists against Saltillo.
The day didn’t end on a high note, as the Panthers took a 2-0 loss to Tupelo Christian Prep to close out the tournament.
“It was frustrating not to play any better than we did in the last game, and they took advantage of that,” Clayton said. “They made a couple of good goals and found us out of position. It should be good motivation if you’re getting beat 2-0 in a 36-minute game by a division team that we have a lot of work to do before we start division games in December. It will be something to work towards, and we have a long way to go.”
Despite the two losses, Clayton found some positives in the showing at Saltillo.
“We had a few guys overall who played well today,” Clayton said. “I thought this was the best Santiago (Perez) has played all summer. He played really well today. Mattison (Glenn) has had a really good summer on the back line, and Landon (Koehn) has gotten better in the goal as we went on. We struggled a lot in the midfield and up top with not making the correct runs. When everybody’s not being where they’re supposed to be, it doesn’t work, but when you are, we can make good things happen. We did a little bit better in that middle game, but not in the first or third ones.”
The Panthers return a handful of starters but have just one senior in Doc Worley and one junior in Bryn Camp.
They will be relying on several sophomores on down who logged valuable minutes last season.
“Lane Carroll has played well on the back line, and Reed Stanford has had a pretty good summer on the left wing,” Clayton said. “Gunnar Williams has played pretty well inside, and we just have to have him be more consistent. TJ Huppert has come in and played well on the back line because he was a guy who didn’t play in the field at all last year and was our backup goalkeeper. He got hurt in spring football this year and had surgery, so he couldn’t play in the goal. These first four weeks are the first time he’s played in the field, and he has picked it up. He’s athletic, and right now, I think that’s probably where he will play in the fall. It’s helped having Will (McComb) back because he missed last year, and he can play a lot of different places and just needs more reps on the ball. Some of these sophomores are improving.”