By Rob Patrick
Short of playing a conference rival, the Bryant High School soccer teams probably couldn’t find[more] a more familiar team in Class 7A than the Rogers Heritage War Eagles to open the Class 7A State tournament against.
The Lady Hornets play Heritage at 3 p.m., in North Little Rock while the boys are playing Heritage at 3 p.m., in Cabot to start State today. Both Bryant teams are No. 3 seeds from the Central Conference. Both Heritage teams are No. 6 seeds from the West.
They have meet before this season.
“We played them twice in that tournament in Texarkana,” recalled Lady Hornets head coach Julie Long, referring to the Razorback Invitational held March 11 and 12. “They beat us both times in PK’s. It should be a good game.”
The Hornets met the War Eagles in the first round last season, noted head coach Jason Hay. They also met at the Texarkana tournament. With the Hornets playing their third game of the day, they lost 2-1 to the fresher War Eagles in the championship game.
“We know, at least from the first of the year, how they play,” Hay acknowledged. “Now we’ve changed a lot over the year and I’m sure they have too. So, we’ll see.”
The Lady Hornets, 16-9 on the season, are coming off a disappointing loss to North Little Rock that actually cost them a first-round bye at State with a No. 2 seed. A coin toss to break the tie didn’t go their way. But, often, playing on the first day is beneficial, allowing a team to shake any anxiety they might have going in.
A loss like that can renew the focus of a team, Long agreed.
“I can look at the North Little Rock game as a blessing or a curse,” she said. “We had the best practice that we’ve probably had all season on the Tuesday after that game. The girls came out here, got after it and it was nice for me to see.
“We’re just kind of doing what we do,” she added. “We’ve been trying to get everything in line as far as fine-tuning a few things. We did a few things (Wednesday) that I think really clicked with the girls and I think it’s going to help us just having this time here to refocus.”
The Hornets, 13-10-1 overall, enter today’s game on a three-game win streak. Confidence is high.
“We had a good week of practice,” Hay reported.
“Just go win, that’s what we want to do,” he added. “We’re going to play them the same way. Last time, they got us on a PK and they had like a 40-yard free kick so they didn’t ever score any shots on goal. They’re a good team. They’ve got a good midfield but we’re just going to do what we do. We’re not going to change for somebody else.”