Starkville Academy senior midfielder Garrett Smith reacts to his team’s 3-0 loss to St. Aloysius in the Class AAA state soccer championship. Photo by: David Miller/Special to The Dispatch
February 25, 2018 12:25:16 AM
By DAVID MILLER
Special to The Dispatch
STARKVILLE -- Jack Dowe scored two goals and St. Aloysius beat Starkville Academy 3-0 to claim its first Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Class AAA state soccer championship.
Starkville Academy struggled to contain Flashes forwards Dowe and Ryan Theriot for much of the first half, and the breakthrough came just two minutes before half when Theriot won a free kick and converted from 25 yards out. Dowe netted off a counter attack in the 49th minute and linked with Theriot on a 2-on-2 break in the '62 to make it 3-0.
SA coach JoJo Dodd said his team was flat out of the gates, and their first-half effort led to missed opportunities in midfield.
"[St. Aloysius] clearly wanted it from the get-go," Dodd said.
"We were playing from behind all game. Playing from behind was rough ... the game was a bit more frantic and rushed, which isn't our game. We have a very young team, especially on defense, and this is a lesson for them."
SA (9-8) defended well in the first half, turning away a pair of corner kicks and what appeared to be the game's first real opportunity to score when Dowe latched onto the end of a through ball and beat SA 'keeper Zak Kelly to the bar at the top of the box. But Kelly turned away the shot and won a free kick in the process.
Just a minute after SA's Bates Bennett fired just wide of the post, Theriot was fouled and won a free kick just a shade to the right of goal. Theriot fired low and to the back post past a diving Kelly.
"The wall was in place, and we had everything going for us, but the keeper just barely missed it," said Cameron McKee, SA midfielder.
McKee, like Dodd, lamented his team's lack of hustle in the first half, especially as a young backline struggled to run with St. Aloysius' forwards. He said he'd battled soreness throughout the day after physical, tough wins over Indianola Academy and Heritage Academy on Monday and Thursday, but it didn't affect his play.
"We weren't winning the ball in the middle enough and weren't going up for balls in the middle," McKee said.
"We told everybody on the outside to calm down and slow things down, give full effort for 40 more minutes. That's all we had left."
SA won a corner in the 47th minute, and St. Aloysius pounced on the errant ball to spring Dowe through the middle against an off-guard SA backline. Dowe beat Ben Guest, took a touch and rounded Kelly for the game's second goal.
SA had its chances in the second, including a pair of dangerous crosses into the box that Bennett and Campbell Spivey couldn't convert.
McKee said the Vols are at their best when they work the wide ends of the field, and he thought they'd be able to take advantage of the width of Mississippi State University's playing surface.
"We have actually played on fields like this, and we knew [St. Aloysius] hadn't played on fields like this," McKee said. "We tried to get wider and not go through the middle as much. Sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn't."
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