December 3, 2019 11:10:13 PM
STARKVILLE -- The Volunteers needed a volunteer.
On Aug. 20, the Starkville Academy soccer team was scuffling in a road match against Magnolia Heights in Senatobia. Senior goalkeeper Meri Laci Archer hadn't allowed a goal, but the Vols' offense couldn't convert.
"We were struggling to get anything going into the net," coach John Morgan said. "We couldn't finish anything."
Then senior Anna Card -- the Vols' starting right back at the start of the season -- offered her services at striker.
"'Coach, put me up there,'" Morgan recalled Card saying. "I was like, 'Alright, go for it, what the heck.'"
Card scored three times in the final 20 minutes of the match to carry Starkville Academy to a 4-0 win -- and she assisted on the Vols' other goal. The leadership Card showed stuck in Morgan's mind.
So did the Vols' first-round playoff match Oct. 1 at Pillow Academy, where Archer saved shot after shot and shut out the powerhouse Mustangs in a 1-0 Volunteers win.
"They had their moments where they stepped up and showed why they are leaders of the team," Morgan said.
Those unforgettable moments sprang to Morgan's mind Tuesday morning at Starkville Academy, when Card and Archer signed their letters of intent to play soccer together at Meridian Community College.
"It's always a good day when you get to see girls take the sport that they love and be able to continue at the next level," Morgan said. "Not everybody gets that opportunity ... These girls put in the hard work and determination and sacrifice for it, and they absolutely deserve it."
After 10 years together on the Starkville-based Hurricanes travel team and at Starkville Academy, Card and Archer will move on to Meridian together. They'll room together and team up once again on the field under Eagles coach Mike Smith.
"He's such a great guy, and he has such a great program going on," Archer said of Smith, who convinced her to play soccer at the next level rather than attend Ole Miss, where she had already been admitted.
For Card, the decision to attend Meridian had been brewing ever since she toured campus.
"I really enjoyed their atmosphere, and I loved all the opportunities it would provide for us," Card said. She made her decision the week before Thanksgiving, and the two made plans to sign together -- something Morgan was happy to see.
"They've done some good things out there in Meridian, and we're proud to send our girls to them," Morgan said. "I think they're gonna be set up for success out there."
He knows that Card and Archer, who've seen plenty of success themselves in their time on the field together, will bring plenty of talent to the Eagles.
"I expect them to excel," Morgan said. "I think these girls have enough athletic ability and enough know-how and enough drive that I don't see any reason why these girls can't be standouts at the next level."
No matter how well Card and Archer do at Meridian, they'll be doing it together. After the Vols were eliminated from the playoffs Oct. 3 by Lamar School, the two restaged a picture taken when they first started playing soccer together -- down to the very same pose.
"These girls have literally played together since they were walking," Morgan said. "It's actually fitting that they would go to the same school."
That's just how they planned it, Card and Archer said.
"We knew that we wanted to go play somewhere together, and Meridian gives us this opportunity," Archer said. "I'm really excited to see what the next two years hold for us."
Theo DeRosa reports on high school sports and Mississippi State softball for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @Theo_DeRosa.