SA Lady Vols draw 2-2 with Lady Raiders
(FILE) - Tiffany Huddleston (left) scored both goals for Starkville Academy on Monday. (Jim Willcutt/For The Daily News)
Starkville Academy soccer coach Robert Gardner has confidence in Tiffany Huddleston's ability to score.
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He told her as much during halftime of Monday's match with the Lady Volunteers trailing Jackson Academy 1-0.
After not finishing opportunities in the first half, Huddleston scored a pair of goals to help Starkville Academy earn a 2-2 draw.
"We were down and I felt we deserved to win," Huddleston said about her determination to make a difference for her team. "Even though we tied, I'll take a tie. I just wanted to try and get the game back even."
Huddleston's first goal came after she gained control of the ball about midway through the second half. She out-ran the Jackson Academy defenders on a sprint toward the goal and took it all the way to tie the score at 1-1.
Gardner had a feeling Huddleston was going to respond in the second half.
"She missed a couple of chances in the first half and she was a little upset with herself," Gardner said. "I told her at halftime that she's a fantastic player, I believed in you and you are going to score in the second half and sure enough she scored two."
Huddleston had been suffering from a quad muscle injury that has limited her play in recent matches.
Once she got healthy enough to contribute, Huddleston wasn't going to let the squad down.
"I hate watching and any player would," Huddleston said. "Just seeing your teammates out there, you know they need you."
Falling behind 2-1 after a goal by Jackson Academy with 7 minutes left, the Lady Vols needed someone to step up again and got another tying goal from Huddleston on a feed by Jessica Dennis.
"It was great work from Jessica Dennis on the side to get the ball in and Tiff was able to float in to peg the goal that's going to give us the result that we want," Gardner said.
Gardner consider a 2-2 match between one of the Jackson area schools "a great result."
"I'm extremely happy," Gardner said. "I've been wondering when we were going to get the result that maybe on paper Starkville Academy isn't supposed to get, but (Monday) we stayed organized and I was extremely happy. They put a ton of pressure on us in the second half, but I'm happy with the way it finished off. I think at a minimum, we deserved a draw."
Starkville Academy, which has an overall record of 8-6-1, will host a playoff match either Monday or Tuesday against Presbyterian Christian, Madison-Ridgeland or a possible rematch with Jackson Academy. The Lady Vols take on Clarksdale-Lee at home in a tune-up match on Thursday.
"It's really exciting," Huddleston said about a playoff appearance. "Any player doesn't want to end their season without the playoffs. We just want to get as far as we can."