Lady Vols see soccer season end
The Starkville Academy Lady Volunteers got off to a fast start in Tuesday's Class AAA soccer playoff match against Presbyterian Christian when Tiffany Huddleston scored on a breakaway goal at the fourth minute.
Little did the Lady Volunteers know that it would be about 90 minutes before they would score again.
Presbyterian Christian was able to get a goal in the 10th minute of the second half, then added two more in the first extra period and left the Starkville Sportsplex with a 3-2 victory.
Huddleston scored again for the Lady Vols in the second extra period, but it wasn't enough.
"It's definitely a tough way to end the season," Huddleston said. "Going into half having a 1-0 lead, you know you have to maintain that lead. It was a hard-fought game and I hate it ended that way. One of the things we talked about (at halftime) is what we needed to do in the second half and that was to continue to score goals."
That didn't happen as Starkville Academy was shut out the entire second half and the first overtime.
Presbyterian Christian was able to put in goals within 5 minutes of each other in the first overtime and proved to be too much for the Lady Vols to overcome.
"It was obviously a difficult loss," Starkville Academy coach Robert Gardner said. "It wasn't our best game and I thought the pressure got to us a little bit. That was unfortunate and I wish that wasn't the case at all. We would panic at times when we normally wouldn't have. In situations where we usually make good decisions, we weren't making the best decisions. When you put yourself under that pressure, it's usually going to be a tough day.
"I don't think any team in the state is beyond us and Presbyterian Christian was no different, but this was just the way it finished for us."
Huddleston was able to get her second goal about 2 minutes into the second overtime which put the Lady Vols within striking distance to get the match tied once again.
As hard as Starkville Academy tried, it couldn't get in position to get another goal. Even Gardner was chasing soccer balls out of bounds to help save time.
"We were trying to score as many goals as we could in the last few minutes," Gardner said. "We moved to a 3-4-3 hoping it would put a little more pressure on and it did. We did have to chase the game at the end."
The Lady Vols, who finished the season with a record of 9-7-1, lose one senior off the team in Shelby Carpenter, who participates along with Gardner in the All-Star Game next week.
"I am very sad to lose Shelby because she was a big part of our success," Gardner said. "She was a hard worker and worked for the team. It's unfortunate to lose her, but I told the girls we are only moving forward. On a squad of 22, we've got 21 returning, that's always positive."
Gardner is the third coach in three years for SA's soccer program, but he vows there won't be a fourth coach in as many years.
"I will be back and I'm looking forward to having a lot of success," Gardner said.
Huddleston already looks forward to the possibilities a more experienced squad brings to the table next season.
"Even though I'm saying this on the day our season ends, it's certainly something to look forward to," Huddleston said. "The only thing we're gaining is more experience."