Bryant girls advance with shootout win over Heritage
EDITOR’S NOTE: In this time of COVID-19, with no sports action, BryantDaily.com will be posting past stories of Bryant athletics either posted on BryantDaily.com (from 2009 to the present) or published in the Bryant Times (from 1998 to 2008).
By Rob Patrick
NORTH LITTLE ROCK — Keeper Kaitlyn Miller made a crucial save and senior Dylan Vail punched in[more] the clinching penalty kick as the Bryant Lady Hornets advanced past the Rogers Heritage Lady War Eagles, 2-1, in a shootout in the first round of the Class 7A State Tournament Friday.
Bryant improves to 17-9 on the season going into a quarterfinal match at noon against Fort Smith Southside, the No. 2 seed from the 7A-West. It’s a rematch of a quarterfinal game from last year that Bryant won 2-1 in a shootout to reach the State semifinals for the first time. (They subsequently lost to the eventual champion, Fayetteville, 3-1.)
In a havoc-creating wind on Friday, the two teams battled to a 1-1 tie in regulation then through two overtimes to force the shootout. It was the third time this season, the Lady Hornets and the Lady War Eagles have played to a shootout. Heritage, however, had won the previous two at a tournament in Texarkana, which made Friday’s payback even sweeter.
“The girls just weren’t going to let it happen again,” stated Lady Hornets head coach Julie Long.
Still, the coach noted that, most of the way, it seemed like her team just couldn’t get a break.
“The wind was a huge factor,” she noted. “I mean, it was crazy. North Little Rock’s stadium is one of the only stadiums that runs east to west. Most of them are north to south. So it was a huge factor in our game.
“The first half, they had the wind and they scored on a set piece on a free kick right outside the 18,” Long related. “They scored off of it, a direct goal, right in.”
The second half, Bryant had the wind.
“We were taking shots but we couldn’t get anything to fall,” she said. “Then, with about 10 minutes left in the game, we get one.”
It came off a throw-in by McKenzie Adams. “Tarra (Hendricks) flicks it on and Dylan’s there,” Long recounted. “Dylan finished it, a nice goal. It was pretty.”
Heritage got the wind in the first overtime and Bryant in the second but neither could take advantage. “I felt like we pretty much controlled the overtimes,” mentioned the coach. “I wasn’t ever worried about it. The second overtime, they didn’t even get in our half. We had probably four chances in the last minute of the second overtime. We had a corner that was right there, all but in the goal.
“Stuff like that was happening over and over and over again at the end,” Long said. “I was like, ‘This is not going to happen to us. This team cannot do this stuff again.’”
Bryant got the first attempt in the shootout with Adams taking the kick.
“Kenzie, she just doesn’t miss,” Long stated. “But she went up and the keeper saved it. She just guessed the right way. It was one of those things. Kenzie had a pretty decent shot.”
In turn, the first attempt by the Lady War Eagles was wide.
London Abernathy found the range for Bryant on the second try.
“On their second one, Miller had a great save,” said Long. “Our third one was Lexie Balisterri and she made it then their third one came up and Miller saved it but it was like she popped it out and it ended up rolling in, just barely rolled across the line as she got her hands on it. She almost had a save on it.”
At that point, Bryant held the advantage 2-1. Katie Moore added a successful kick to put the Lady Hornets in position to win with a Heritage miss. But the Lady War Eagles stayed alive, cutting it to 3-2.
“So, it came down to Dylan Vail,” Long said. “She was the last one and it was the first PK she’d taken in a game. But she’s been doing it really, really well in practice. She’d scored during the game and I was feeling like she could do it. She walked up there and she’s a big goofball. She starts screaming on the way up there, already cheering.
“At that point, I knew it was going in because it was just Dylan’s attitude,” she added. “She made a perfect shot. There wasn’t anything the keeper could’ve done about it.”
Without enough PK’s left to make up the difference, Heritage’s season concluded.
“It was good,” Long stated. “It was an exciting game. I just wish it wouldn’t have gone to PK’s. It was fun but we have to get ready for Southside.”