Sarah Curtis admits there were distractions the last time the Heritage Academy girls soccer team faced its archrival Starkville Academy.
Despite breaking out to a 2-0 lead, the Lady Patriots surrendered two goals in about a five-minute span in regulation before falling in a penalty kick shootout.
That’s why Curtis and her teammates vowed the rematch Tuesday would be different.
“We came fully prepared and we were ready to win, and that’s exactly what we did,” Curtis said.
Curtis scored three goals and Haley Barker and Catherin Moore added goals to lead Heritage Academy to a 5-0 victory at the downtown Columbus Soccer Complex.
Curtis said the Lady Patriots were “positive” in the beginning of the first match, but she said that confidence waned after the Lady Volunteers rallied to tie the match and then ultimately won. The result didn’t sit well with a team that said in the preseason it had a goal to reach the playoffs.
“We had a positive attitude the whole game,” Curtis said. “We were completely confident, we believed in each other, and we didn’t get on to any of our teammates.”
Curtis helped Heritage Academy set the tone with a goal in the 15th minute off a scramble in the box. Carly Rogers appeared to have the first shot that goalkeeper Meri Laci Archer stopped, but the ball caromed to the back post, where Curtis cleaned it up.
The victory moved Heritage Academy (8-2) one win away from securing a district championship. It also was the team’s first against Starkville Academy in recent memory.
A victory against Columbus Christian Academy on Sept. 25 would help Heritage Academy clinch the district title and a No. 1 seed in the first round of the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools (MAIS) Division III playoffs.
Starkville Academy and Heritage Academy have been rivals for years, but the Lady Volunteers have held the upper hand for much of that time. They won 5-0 in the first meeting between the teams in 2016. The Lady Volunteers won in penalty kicks in one match in 2017 and again in the first meeting earlier this season in Starkville.
This time, though, Heritage Academy didn’t flinch. A huge save by goalkeeper Haven Tuggle on Lake Little late in the first half preserved a 1-0 halftime lead.
Archer then made a huge save when she denied Lily Linton’s left-footed shot after a defender fell down to give Linton a one-on-one opportunity.
Heritage Academy didn’t miss its chances in the second half. Moore crashed the post to knock home a second chance after Archer stopped the initial shot to make it 2-0.
With Heritage Academy coach Tom Velek shouting, “Do not step off the gas,” the Lady Patriots added to the lead on a cross/shot by Curtis in the 47th minute and a third goal by Curtis off a pass from Linton in the 54th minute.
Barker’s chip from distance sailed over Archer’s head for the final score.
“It feels really good,” Heritage Academy senior Anna Acker said. “We don’t know if soccer has ever won (a district title). I have never won one. It is really special to win it against our rival and at home (in front of a record crowd of 214).”
Said Velek, “It’s unbelievable.”
Heritage Academy assistant coach Jonathan Tuggle said it even better when he said it was gratifying to see the players’ hard work pay off.
“Games like this are what we work for to play well,” Tuggle said.
n Hebron Christian 12, Oak Hill Academy 3: At West Point, Reagan Freeman had three hits and an RBI Tuesday, but the Lady Raiders (3-12) lost their non-district matchup to the Lady Eagles.
n New Albany 3, Caledonia 1: At New Albany, the Lady Confederates lost their non-district match Tuesday to fall to 16-7. Set scores were 25-13, 21-25, 16-25, 24-26.
Lizzie Truelock had six kills, one block, and nine digs, Kennedy Lambert had one block, Maddy Suggs had 16 digs, Olivia Boykin had 11 digs, Tori Brooks had seven kills, two blocks, and six aces, Camryn Johnson had 26 assists and 10 digs, and Shawntel Mathews had one block.
n Starkville 3, New Hope 2: The Lady Trojans lost to the Lady Yellow Jackets on Tuesday night. Set scores were 18-25, 22-25, 25-23, 25-23, 13-15.
Maci Coleman had 17 digs, Sydney Cox had four aces, one kill, 10 assists, and four digs, Micaela Hudgins had one ace, four blocks, and 10 kills, Kensley Woolbright had two aces and 31 digs, Brianna Terry had seven kills, 11 digs, and one assists, Sydney Magers had one block, one kill, and one assist, Alyssa Smith had one ace, 10 assists, and one block, Taylor Mitchell had two blocks, one kill, and two digs, and Rebecca Box had one dig, one assist, and one kill.
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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