Starkville Academy's Anna McKell, left, tries to kick the soccer ball past a Jackson Prep defender on Tuesday. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)
There were two numbers, six and zero, that didn't rest well with Starkville Academy soccer coach Robert Gardner Tuesday afternoon.
The inability to defend the middle 60 yards for Starkville Academy led to a 6-0 loss to Jackson Prep at the Starkville Sportsplex soccer complex.
"We had a meeting before training (Monday) and we identified the middle 60 yards where we have to press properly as a unit and we have to win that area," Gardner said. "If we win the middle 60 yards, we win the game.
"Obviously, you can see we are not good enough in that middle 60 yards. That's just part of it and was a key area of the field. At the end of the day, we weren't good enough in that area which is very disappointing for me."
Jackson Prep took a 1-0 lead in the first half on a goal by Keavy Noblin and Gardner liked the position the Lady Vols were in after the first 40 minutes.
"Honestly, I was fine with the first half," Gardner said. "I thought we were as good as we needed to be. We created a couple of chances and I was fine with that."
It didn't take long for the situation to go from bad to worse for Starkville Academy in the second half.
Jackson Prep scored five goals, with two more from Noblin, to take control of the match.
"As far as the second half, it's very confusing for me because we trained well this week," Gardner said. "The past week I felt we were an improved team going forward. I was very positive (Monday) and I was positive the first 40 minutes, but the wheels absolutely fell off the second half and it's something I don't understand because we didn't make any real changes.
"It is confusing for me the nature of the two half performances and just sorting that out will be the hardest thing for me when I prepare for training (today)."
The Lady Vols saw their record fall to 0-3 and have been shut out in their last two matches. They suffered a 2-0 loss to Jackson Academy on the road one week ago.
Gardner understands the level of competition his squad is facing, but won't allow that to be an excuse.
"We're the ones responsible for our own demise," Gardner said. "We'll try to improve as a squad and see where we can take steps forward."
Starkville Academy only had one day off to prepare for its next match with Pillow Academy at home on Thursday.
After going a whole week between the Jackson Academy and Jackson Prep matches, Gardner isn't sure if now the quick turnaround helps or hurts.
"I couldn't tell you which one I prefer it to be whether to have a week off or a day off," Gardner said. "We've just got to sort through the issues we have right now and obviously do our best to improve and try to get a result on Thursday."
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