Early on in Tuesday’s home match against Pillow Academy, Heritage Academy girls soccer forward Caroline Peal got a breakaway opportunity about 10 yards outside the 18-yard box.
Peal, the leading scorer for the Patriots with nine goals in her first four matches, looked to get into double figures Tuesday.
However, her shot was directed straight at the goalkeeper as the game remained scoreless early on.
That was one of three early scoring chances Peal and Heritage had but couldn’t convert as the Patriots eventually fell to Pillow, 4-1.
“We came out strong and we had our chances, but just couldn’t execute on goals,” Heritage Academy head coach Jacob Hunt said. “We dropped our heads a little bit and things started to get out of our hands.”
The story of the match was missed opportunities as the Patriots (3-2) had at least four scoring opportunities inside of the 18-yard box, several of them being one-on-one matchups with the keeper.
Heritage certainly put the pressure on Pillow early, a program that has given this team issues in the past. Last season, the Mustangs blanked Heritage Academy, 8-0, in the playoffs.
This program has grown since that game — a sour end to an otherwise great season — and on Tuesday, they showed that growth.
“The girls were telling me last year that it was a mercy rule,” Hunt said. “That’s in the past. We’re not the same team as we were last year. We come with a different fire and a different fight.”
Despite not scoring in the match, Peal looked as stellar on the ball as she has the entire season and had Pillow’s defense on its heels quite often.
She made great runs up the sideline, cutting back toward the middle to get in position to score, something she was able to do quite often early on.
It took just a few small mistakes from the Mustangs to allow the junior to do what she does best, creating chances in front of goal.
“Communication and checking over my shoulder to see if I was open were the biggest things tonight,” Peal said. “Also, looking for my options across the field helped.”
Heritage’s lone goal came in the early part of the second half as junior Chloe Boyd stepped up for a free kick just outside the box after the Patriots had just missed a prime scoring opportunity off a low cross from Peal.
Boyd’s shot found the top third of the net, evading the reach of Pillow’s keeper to cut the score to 3-1 at the time.
However, the Mustangs had a response of their own in a very similar fashion, scoring off the top post and into the back of the net to put the game away at 4-1, just before the second-half water break.
“We were able to reel it back in and get back in the game, but Pillow scored a great goal at the end, nothing we could do about that,” Hunt said. “They’ve always been a good team. It’s just a chance for us to work harder next time.”
There were a lot of positive takeaways from the loss, the biggest being the energy that Heritage showed in the first half.
Had a few of those scoring chances turned into goals, the Patriots could have been up multiple goals early, which would have changed the entire complexion of the match.
Those things will be learning points for the future and a great foundation to build upon for the remainder of the season.
“I’m hoping that this will help us move forward and learn from our loss, keep playing hard like we did this game and not giving up when we are down,” Peal said.
Up next for Heritage is another home match Thursday evening against East Rankin Academy, a program the Patriots will face twice this season.
The two played to an exciting 4-4 draw early on last season, and a similar level of competition is to be expected Thursday.
Starkville Academy 9, Hebron Christian 1
STARKVILLE — Starkville Academy softball defeated Hebron Christian, 9-1, at home Tuesday.
Calliope Koiva was the story of the day for the Lady Volunteers (4-3), striking 10 over six one-run innings of work, giving up just three hits.
Koiva also had two hits and an RBI in the win, one of several players with multi-hit games for Starkville Academy.
Hebron Christian had five errors in the loss and will be playing Winston Academy on the road at 6 p.m. Thursday. Starkville Academy hosts Oak Hill Academy at 6 p.m. Thursday.
North Delta School 17, Oak Hill Academy 4
WEST POINT — Oak Hill Academy softball lost to North Delta School, 17-4, at home Tuesday. The Raiders (3-3) had eight errors in Tuesday’s loss as starter Sara Frances Ramsay gave up nine earned runs in 5 2/3 innings pitched.
Ramsey redeemed herself at the plate, going 2 for 3 with an RBI. Kendryn Whitacre also had a multi-hit game for Oak Hill.
Oak Hill will play Starkville Academy on the road at 6 p.m. Thursday.
Caledonia 3, New Albany 2
CALEDONIA — Caledonia volleyball defeated New Albany in five sets in Tuesday’s home match, 3-2.
Set scores were 27-25, 25-27, 24-26, 25-17, 15-13.
The Cavaliers (4-2) came from two sets down to take down the Bulldogs. This is Caledonia’s second straight five-set victory against New Albany, the previous one coming in last year’s playoffs.
Caledonia travels to play Tupelo in its next match at 6:30 p.m. Thursday.
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