Bryant boys edge Van Buren for critical victory

By Aaron Shuttleworth

Photos by Kevin Nagle 

Thursday night’s match between the Bryant Hornets and the Van Buren Pointers started out[more] fast paced and never let up. It was a battle all 80 minutes.

But, in the end, the Hornets had a much-needed victory, their first in three 7A/6A-Central Conference contests, 3-2.

“It wasn’t pretty but it was a win,” stated Hornets coach Jason Hay. “We did some good things but are still giving up cheap goals. At times, we played the ball on the ground and passed much better than we have but then, at times, we started to play kick ball too much. We are still lacking on finishing our shots.

“We missed a few more scoring opportunities that would have given us a better cushion in the game,” he added, “but, right now, I will take it. This will help us going into next week’s home games against Russellville and Conway.”

The first goal of the night came after a free kick at 39:02 by the Hornets’ Caleb Garrett 15 yards from the goal. Junior Alex Rowlan was on the receiving end of a nice feed from Jesse Wolf to get the ball in the back of the net. Twenty-one seconds later, Van Buren scored on a penalty kick. So it was back to a tie game with not even two minutes played.

Bryant’s Bryce Dinker broke free and took a shot at 32:37 but it went high and to the right.

Van Buren then went on the offensive and started upfield. Keeper Jace Dinker had a bouncing save at 28:04. At 27:18, the Pointers scored on a free kick that was disputed because it looked as if a Van Buren player was offsides.

At 22:49, Bryant had a chance to score off of a throw in but there was no one on the back post. An assist from Bryce Denker to Ryan Watson from 6 yards out at 17:07 tied the game again, however.

When Bryant had to defend, Ben Stukenborg, Forrest Fowler and Reed Evans were there giving support to Jace Denker. Reed Evans hustled to every ball that was heading out of bounds and saved nearly all of them by any means necessary.

The passing of the ball was spot-on in the midfield. The communication was what set them apart from Van Buren.

With 14:11 left in the half, the Hornets had a chance to take the lead from a header but the ball when just wide right.

The second half started just like the first. Offense was getting pressure on the keeper and the defense was keeping the ball out of the goal.

Alex Rowlan scored from a very nice kick from 20 yards out at 33:15 that went just over the keeper and to the right.

Jace Denker had a diving goal save at 31:46. Van Buren tried again to score from 35 yards away but it went over the goal.

Justin Travis and Bryce Dinker were working well as a team just cutting through the defense. They were really keeping the Pointers on their heels.

At 14:23, Jace Dinker had a save that he hit away. The Pointers shot right back but it went high over the goal. The Bryant keeper ended the night with seven saves.

At 9:17, the Pointers had another free kick just on the outside of the box but it was beautifully stopped by the Bryant defending wall.

With the game almost to an end the Hornets went on the offensive strike again. Travis had a free kick from 20 yards out that just clipped the top rail. At 4:09, Stukenborg put tremendous pressure on the Pointer keeper. The keeper fumbled around with the ball until he finally secured it. But it was because of the pressure and the fact that the Hornets will stay in the face of the keeper, the opposing team will make mistakes and the Hornets will strike when their defenses are down. The Hornets took nine shots.

Now 6-6-1 on the season and 1-2 in conference, Bryant hosts Russellville on Tuesday, April 5, then Conway on Thursday, April 7.

In a JV game Thursday, Bryant won 5-1. Caleb Lambert had two goals. Bryan Oldham had one off an assist from Evan Caddy. Blake Reed and Jeremy Anderson added goals as well.

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