Vols claim Division III North soccer championship

The Starkville Academy Volunteers
Staff Writer

Dalton Dempsey and Torin Hamilton aimed to make sure the Starkville Academy Volunteers would be the victors in a Golden Triangle showdown against Heritage Academy in the Division III North Half championship game Thursday night.
Due to the teams splitting their regular season matchups, this pivotal match also served as the rubber match between the two rivals.
Coach Matt Sykes and his Vols handled the pressure well as they dominated the Patriots from start to finish on their way to winning the match 2-0.
“It’s always good to win, especially against a rival,” Sykes said. “It also feels good to win with what was at stake. These guys came out and they were ready to play. It seemed like from the beginning we dominated the game. It’s not much else to say except that these guys fought hard and definitely earned this victory (Thursday night).”
Starkville Academy came out and imposed its will on Heritage early on in the match. The Vols pushed the pace and won ball after ball in effort to keep the ball near scoring territory.
Two corner kicks very early in the game didn't result in goals, but it gave a definite sense of optimism on the Starkville Academy side.
The Vols cashed in on their good early play when Dalton Dempsey found himself with the ball near the box. The senior then dropped it right over the keeper’s head and into the goal. This gave Starkville Academy a 1-0 lead and allowed it to take control early on.
“Someone played me the ball,” Dempsey said. “I just drove it down and went through a couple of guys. I just saw one opportunity so I shot it and I looked up and it went in. That’s pretty much all there was to it.”
The Vols displayed a relentless kind of effort on the offensive end to earn numerous opportunities at getting another goal before the half. Starkville Academy missed three opportunities as the Heritage keeper came up big for the Patriots to keep the match close. Sykes and his team thought they scored their second goal of the game as a scramble in the box led to Starkville Academy pushing the ball past the keeper. However, a foul was called on the Volunteers inside the box. This negated the goal and sent the game into half at 1-0.
Nothing seemed to change early on in the second half either. Although Heritage began to make more progress than it did in the first half, Starkville Academy had a response or counter to everything the Patriots tried.
Volunteer senior Torin Hamilton then found himself with the ball outside of the box after an assist from Cameron McKee. Hamilton was able to square it up and provide a good strike to push his team to a commanding 2-0 lead.
“Well, they changed keepers on us,” Hamilton said. “I knew I could go higher because they had a shorter keeper and I didn’t have to keep it low. The ball was bouncing around and I just kicked it into the goal.”
Starkville Academy held the lead with more of the same. Heritage produced a few opportunities but just could not come close to getting anything to fall. Syke’s team produced 18 shots during the match with seven being on goal.
The win was its last game of the year for the Vols at the Starkville Sportsplex as they travel to the state championship at Central Hinds next on Saturday.
The boys look to bring Starkville Academy its second soccer state championship after the girls captured one on in the fall.
The fan support was plentiful for the Volunteers on Thursday night. It was a great atmosphere full of support for a team trying to do something special.
“It’s just something that I learned in my college days,” Sykes said. “We show respect to everybody that came out to watch. Thanking the fans is just something I’ve wanted to continue here.”