Lamar ready to host first-round MPSA soccer game

By By Richard Dark
The Meridian Star
The Lamar School Raider soccer team will host the first round of the Mississippi Private School playoffs and this year, the South Division No. 2 seed again has its hands full beginning Monday at 3 p.m., when the homestanding Raiders will try to advance past the Jackson Academy Raiders.
Lamar (11-2-1) has already faced the Jackson Academy twice this season, beating them in the Starkville tournament on Dec. 9, 2-1 and tying them 2-2 two days later. JA enters the playoffs as the No.3 seed from the North half.
Since the teams were from opposite divisions, both coaches elected not to play until the deadlock was broken. The six-team tourney is comprised of three North and three South squads. The top seed in the South is Jackson Prep (9-0 in the South), which outlasted Lamar 4-3 earlier in the season. The North's top two seeds are Greenville's Washington School Generals (12-0) and Greenwood's Pillow Academy Mustangs.
The Hillcrest Christian Cougars are the South's No.3 seed, because despite an identical 7-2 division record as Lamar, the Raiders won the head-to-head series. Lamar's only other loss (1-0) came last week in a makeup game against University Christian School. UCS is coached by former Raider coach Anton McEwen.
Because of the small number of teams, the MPSA soccer league doesn't break down into classifications. But Lamar is the only school in the six-team field regarded as a Class AAA institution. All the others are Class AAAA.
Hillcrest and Pillow will fight it out Monday as well for the right to travel to Jackson Prep. This is the South's year to host the title game, so if the Patriots lose on Thursday and Lamar wins a pair, the Raiders will host the title game Saturday at 1 p.m.
This season, Lamar is led by four seniors, including midfielder Austin Holmes, who has scored 28 goals in 14 games during the current campaign.
Goalkeeper Josh Jordan has been a steady contributor since his eighth-grade year. Midfielder Christopher Thompson is a speedy scorer who has provided the Raiders with crucial goals in big games this year as well. Robert Hull is also a midfielder and a team leader.
Sophomore sweeper Dave Hicks, who has been out the past three weeks since hurting his knee against the Patriots, is questionable for the game Monday.
Since winning its first round game in 1997, Lamar has only had one other playoff appearance, bowing out in the first round in 1999.
Richard Dark is a sports writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at rdark@themeridianstar.com.

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