Lady Hornets earn first State win over El Dorado
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EL DORADO — The Bryant Lady Hornets made the soccer program’s first trip to the Class AAAAA State Tournament since 2002 a memorable one with a 6-1 win over the host El Dorado Lady Wildcats on Saturday, April 29. The victory was the first in State play by a Lady Hornets team since the program was instituted in 1998.
The Lady Hornets advanced to take on the Rogers Lady Mountaineers, one of the top teams in the State, in the second round on Monday, May 1. An early goal gave Rogers the upper hand and the Lady Mounties went on to end the Lady Hornets’ season with a 4-0 decision. Rogers thus became one of three AAAAA-West Conference teams to advance to the semifinals. Only AAAAA-Central champion Mount St. Mary’s prevented an all-West final four with a 4-0 win over Russellville.
“It was exciting,” said head coach Doug Maxwell of the first round victory.
The Lady Hornets struck early to grab the lead. Eighteen seconds into the game, Brittany Starrett scored off an assist from Bridgette McPeak.
“That kind of set the tone for us,” Maxwell acknowledged. “It kind of caught (El Dorado) back on their heels pretty quick. We had the wind at our backs and were planning to get on top early and it worked to our advantage.”
Three minutes later, Starrett scored again.
“Maddie Spring made a strong pass from the outside inside to Starrett. She made one cut and was able to put that one in the back of the net,” Maxwell recounted.
Bryant went on to build a 5-1 lead before halftime. McPeak picked up another assist on a goal by Ashley Moskow then Starrett fed Hannah Bettoney for the fourth goal. Just before halftime, Starrett got her second assist, setting up Moskow’s second goal.
In the second half, Spring got her second assist leading to the Lady Hornets’ sixth goal by Maggie Griffith.
“You always wonder how your team will handle that situation, going to State for the first time in awhile, especially with a long bus ride down to El Dorado and when you get the host team on their field in the first round,” Maxwell mentioned. “The girls responded well. We got a strong defensive effort. (El Dorado) got one goal in the first half off a penalty kick but that’s going to happen.
“El Dorado has a very good ballclub but we were able to jump on them early and put some combinations together. Really our midfield was the difference there, able to play the ball up to our forwards and our forwards just out-matched their defenders. They couldn’t stay with our speed.
“It was kind of a reversal of fortunes in the second game,” noted Maxwell, regarding the loss to Rogers. “They did just a tremendous job of playing the ball to their feet. We haven’t seen a whole lot of teams this year including Mount — I’d have to say their best team as far as ballhandling from front to back that we’ve seen this year. They just do a tremendous job of playing the ball to space and being there. Their midfielders did a good job of controlling it, spreading the field out. We weren’t able to double-team like we do with a lot of teams. They moved the ball really quickly. Rogers is definitely a talented group. They ran my midfield to death.
“And, unfortunately, my defense came out a little flat and we struggled being able to get any lift on the ball,” he continued. “We had four balls in the first half that just bounced the wrong way. Two of them bounced the wrong way in front of our goal and (Rogers) put them in. Two others bounced the wrong way as they were going in on the other end with us and went out. We were down 3-0 at half and could’ve easily been up 2-1.”
Rogers’ quick first goal came off a corner kick.
“It was a great kick,” Maxwell allowed. “My keeper (Brittany Wildhaber) goes up to make a save and one of the (Rogers) forwards collides with her and the ball bounced down, a defender misses the ball. That’s one of those things that doesn’t happen very often but when it does it was a bad place to happen. The ball was skipping a little bit and we just misplayed it. There was a girl from Rogers there to put it in.”
The second goal came about six minutes later.
“It was a good shot off a nice cross from the outside,” Maxwell said. “It was a really solid goal, a good transition goal for them.”
But the third goal was another like the first.
“It was a strong shot coming from the right side,” said the coach. “Our keeper came across and made a good play on it but collided with another Rogers forward there. They were trying to head it and actually wound up heading (Brittany) on both plays. They did a good job of jarring the ball loose. She had her hands on it but with the collision just couldn’t hold onto it. We had another defender standing right there but we misplayed the ball a second time and they punched it in to go up 3-0.
“We had two chances late in the first half,” Maxwell noted. “We break away and Brittany Starrett has a chance but she’s a little off-balance. She’d broken free but she got a little push from behind from a defender and couldn’t get the ball to go.
“About two minutes later, Ashley Moskow, the same thing, breaks free from the defender and the keeper there and she got a little tug on the jersey from behind there, which happens. She’s falling away and tries to get the ball. The field was still a little torn up from Saturday. The ball just got there right to the post and bounced the wrong way.
“Those goals probably would’ve kept us in the game. But they’ve got two really talented midfielders that were both all-State last year and a talented sweeper that did a great job of pretty much playing free safety for them. She read the ball really well and prevented us from doing a lot of playing the ball up over the top and outside the corners.
“It was a good experience for us,” Maxwell concluded. “We were excited. It was the first time we’ve gotten past the first round. It was a learning experience. I think the girls got a taste of it and they’re all itching and ready to go back.”
The team graduates four seniors, Wildhaber, McPeak, Alden Manning and Megan Marlow.