POPLARVILLE, Miss. — Newcomer Caleb Burke (Ocean Springs) scored a late tally and freshman keeper John Bowman (Bay St. Louis; Bay) stood on his head in goal to help the Wildcats secure a 1-0 victory over visiting Meridian on Friday at the PRCC Soccer Complex.
"Meridian has definitely improved and everybody can see it. They gave us a lot of problems," Pearl River coach Drew Gallant said. "We're not gelling very well together. We have a lot of work to do up top. Our finishing isn't where it needs to be."
Both attacks were repeatedly turned away by the opponent's goalkeeper, frustrating the forward units of each team.
The Wildcats finally broke through in the 55th minute off of a set piece. Deep in the Meridian territory, to the right of the goal, Mike Jimenez (Ocean Springs) paced off a free kick. With only a two-man wall 10 yards away by Meridian, the sophomore sent a hard kicked ball toward the goal.
Burke, who transferred to PRCC from William Carey during the winter, crashed the net and headed the ball cleanly past the helpless keeper.
"We've been practicing set pieces a lot. We've been having problems with them so it's actually kind of funny that we scored," Burke said. "Usually I run towards the middle but the front was wide open so I ran to the near post."
Meridian had several other chances to even the game back up but Bowman made arguably the play of the match, lunging to his left to deflect a well struck ball away from the upper right corner.
"Both keepers came up really big, but John's save at the end is a top notch save," Gallant said. "That's why we recruited John, because we felt he could come up and make those saves.
"That's really what won the game for us in the long run."
The save helped Bowman preserve his first collegiate shutout and secure PRCC's Man of the Match honor.
The Wildcats are back on the pitch at Mississippi Gulf Coast on Tuesday at 7 p.m. PRCC returns home Sept. 10 to host Southwest in a 7 p.m. tilt.
HOW TO TUNE IN
All home events will be broadcast on PRCCAthletics.com and PRCCMedia.com. Anyone who has an Amazon Fire or Roku device can stream PRCC broadcasts by downloading the "Pearl River CC" Channel from the app store.