By DANNY P. SMITH
The Starkville Academy Volunteers don't like the fact they have lost two soccer matches in two days to open the season.
If there was a question of effort, SA soccer coach Robert Gardner might have a reason to complain.
The Vols only have a roster of 14 players for one reason or another, but Gardner has rallied the members of the team remaining for competition.
Despite SA's 7-2 loss to Presbyterian Christian Saturday afternoon at the Starkville Sportsplex, Gardner is proud that his squad gave him 80 minutes of its best.
"To have them still battling with 2 minutes to go, pleases me to say the least," Gardner said. "I'm happy with where they are.
"To be honest, I'm not happy with the losses and there are mistakes we're making, but for me, they are fixable mistakes. We're going to continue to work and continue to put the effort in. I'm pleased to be their coach with the work they are putting in."
The two scores for the Vols came in the second half off the foot of Zach Slaughter on assists by Jake Goodwin.
Slaughter has only been with the team a week after participating in football, but Gardner likes how far he's come in a short amount of time and said he was "certainly the best player for us (Saturday)."
"He's only had three training sessions, but we see a good commitment and attitude from him," Gardner said. "We're quite pleased with his progress."
Slaughter had asked Gardner at halftime if it would be a good idea to move back, but was instructed to stay with the game plan and it paid off for the two goals.
"He was committed, put the effort in and certainly earned two goals," Gardner said. "They were two well-taken goals. I was happy with him and his effort. He even had to drop and fill in when we had an injury."
In Friday's 3-1 loss to East Rankin, Slaughter had an assist on the only goal by Jamison McKee.
The Vols won't play another match until they make the trip to Hillcrest Christian on Dec. 5.
Even though fitness doesn't appear to be a problem for SA, Gardner looks for it to get in even better shape.
"We will do some work to get a little more fit because the small squad will make it difficult," Gardner said. "We're going to work the players we have, take care of them as well as we can, get better and move forward."