By Rob Patrick
It’s certainly fitting that the last time (for the foreseeable future) teams from Bryant and Conway compete[more] in the 7A-Central Conference, there’s a lot on the line.
Since Bryant initially moved from the South Conference to the Central for the 2003-05 cycle, the rivalry between the two schools has intensified steadily in several sports.
Of course, Conway’s biggest rival is still probably Russellville and Bryant’s is still probably Benton but, in league play, you’d be hard-pressed to name a bigger rivalry overall.
But, tonight, when Conway teams come to Bryant for showdowns in softball, baseball and both boys and girls soccer, it will be the last time the two schools compete as members of the same conference as Bryant’s school-year-long farewell tour through the Central nears its conclusion. Bryant will move back to the South next fall while Conway will continue to compete in a revised Central Conference.
And league championships (or at least leads, with the end of the seasons fast approaching) will be on the line in softball and girls soccer while, in boys soccer, the two teams will be vying for a chance to stay in contention for at least a piece of a league crown. In baseball, the top seed to the Class 7A State Tournament from the Central will be on the line.
So, it would also be fitting if tonight’s action drew big crowds; not only because it marks the end of a fun rivalry but because the game are so important. Unfortunately, three of the contests begin at the same time. The softball game, baseball game and girls soccer game each starts at 5 p.m. The boys soccer game starts around 7 p.m.
Fans are being encouraged to pick a sport and come out then once baseball, softball and girls soccer has concluded, everyone can converge on Bryant Stadium to mark the finale.
The Bryant-Conway rivalry has already created some thrills this school year. In football, the Hornets won a heart-stopper, 31-28.
In volleyball, though the Lady Hornets were unable to overtake the tradition-rich Conway team, they competed with the Lady Cats as well as any in years. In fact, the first time they played, Bryant won the first game of the match, a rare thing.
In basketball, the Hornets forged a huge come-from-behind win at Conway, the program’s first win there. It was no small part of Bryant’s historic run to the State semifinals.
And the Lady Hornets and Lady Cats joined in the fun with two of the two highest-scoring games of the year. Bryant swept, winning 68-60 at Conway and 75-60 at home to clinch a trip to the State tourney.
Softball has actually been a bit of an exception as far as the rivalry goes. In recent years, the Bryant-North Little Rock series has been most intense. The two teams met twice in the State finals with Bryant winning the title last year and North Little Rock winning three years ago.
But tonight, the Lady Hornets, riding a 31-game winning streak including 28 this season and 11 in conference play, will face, in Conway, the only team that has a chance to catch them in the standings. The Lady Wampus Cats’ lone league loss was to Bryant earlier this season, 9-2, at Conway. Bryant clinches its fourth consecutive conference championship with a win tonight.
In girls soccer, the shoe is on the other foot. Conway is unbeaten in league play and Bryant is only a game behind. The Lady Hornets, whose lone league loss was a 1-0 nail-biter at Conway, will try to avenge that loss and grab a share of the conference lead with only one league game left in the regular season.
In both of those examples, top seeds for State probably hang in the balance, just like baseball where the Hornets, after back-to-back losses to Van Buren and Russellville, stand in third place behind second-place Conway and first-place Russellville. But, with Russellville dropping into Class 6A for the State Tournament, Conway or Bryant will be the league’s top seed at 7A State. The Hornets already defeated the Wampus Cats in Conway so, though they would only pull even with them with a win tonight, they’d hold the tiebreaker advantage for the top seed because of the season sweep.
In boys soccer, the Hornets, at 7-3 in conference, trail league-leading Little Rock Catholic (7-2) by half a game while leading the Wampus Cats, Russellville and Little Rock Central (all with four losses) by a game. The Hornets have a chance to surge into first place if they can defeat Conway tonight then knock off Catholic on Thursday.