Fast start for SHS soccer made through hard work
Starkville's Alvaro Pichardo keeps his eye on the soccer ball during a match. (Kim Murrell/SDN)
Piling up the wins and building momentum, the Starkville High boys and girls soccer teams were finally slowed down this week thanks to the winter blast Mother Nature dealt to most of the Southeast.
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If the 2010 portion of the Yellowjackets and Lady Jackets schedule was any indication, it won't be long before the two squads are heating up again.
Scheduled to open up Class 6A, Division 2 play on Tuesday at Tupelo, the snowy, icy conditions left over from Sunday night caused the game to be pushed back to a later date.
With the rescheduling, both Brian Bennett's boys and Anna Albritton's girls will instead begin district play today at Columbus.
No one could blame the Falcons and Lady Falcons if they were a bit intimidated coming into play against Starkville.
The Jackets and Lady Jackets make the trek eastbound on Highway 82 having already accumulated plenty of success in their respective non-district slates.
The Starkville boys are currently unbeaten, sitting at 11-0-1 with their lone blemish coming in a tie to Clinton, a game that Bennett said earlier this season was probably the Jackets' "best game" up to that point.
"All the guys have just worked hard," said Alvaro Pichardo of the boys team. "We worked hard during the summer and we work hard at practice. Everyone gives all they have at practice and at games and we're doing a great job at staying focused. Hopefully we can keep it going all the way to the playoffs."
While racking up the 'W's', Pichardo admits Starkville's dominance has at least been somewhat of a surprise, even for a team that came into the season with high expectations.
"We expected we'd be a good team, but we didn't expect we'd be this good," said Pichardo. "Everybody has grown. Nobody jokes around now, like we did last year when we were younger."
Combine that with a little team chemistry and it shouldn't be so shocking that Starkville is streaking coming into today's game.
"It's like we know what each other is going to do," said Pichardo.
While they're not unbeaten, the Lady Jackets are making plenty of noise themselves.
The Starkville girls are 10-2 and Albritton says her team continues to make strides despite their youth and inexperience.
"In a lot of ways, this is exciting because we're looking at the future," said Albritton. "I've got a lot of eighth graders, ninth graders and 10th graders that are really stepping up and playing some good soccer for us. We're thrilled about that, but at the same time, the inexperience still comes out sometimes during the game."
Albritton says those times provide great teaching opportunities for a young team. One such occasion occurred earlier this season at New Hope when the Lady Jackets suffered their first defeat.
"I told the girls that they were probably going to lose that game and it had to do with attitude and how much they were putting into it just with warm-ups," said Albritton. "I sort of read into it with their behavior. It was disappointing, but it also was a good thing. They had to get their heads straight again."
The Lady Jackets answered the wake-up call.
Starkville lost the very next day against Amory as Ole Miss commitment Addie Forbus scored all three goals to defeat the Lady Jackets 3-0, but the Lady Jackets have since won four in a row.
Albritton says the recent run displays her team's maturing process.
"They have a lot of heart and want to win," said Albritton. "This is one of the first years that I've been able to go out and coach and not have to worry about, what I would call, girl stuff. They really have come together as a team. They all get along and that's exciting. We haven't had to worry about other issues other than going out and playing soccer."
Starkville's games today at Columbus begins at 5 p.m. with the girls match.