Photo courtesy of Susan Kennedy
FORT SMITH — For the third year in a row, taking on some of the best teams in the state, the Bryant Lady Hornets captured the championship of the Fort Smith Invitational soccer tournament over the weekend. The three-game sweep included a 3-2 win in the championship game against the Bentonville Lady Tigers, the team that edged the Lady Hornets in the 2014 Class 7A State championship game.
Bryant opened the tourney on Friday night with a 1-0 win over Fort Smith Northside in a 5-4 shootout. On Saturday, they knocked off Fayetteville 3-1.
Sophomore Caroline Campbell scored all six of Bryant’s goals on Saturday.
“I was proud of how the girls stepped up,” stated Lady Hornets coach Julie Long. “Overall, I was very pleased with where we are at right now but I do not want them to be satisfied. I want them to keep working on getting better every day, because throughout the season, so will everyone else.”
In the win over Bentonville in the title match, the Lady Hornets fell behind at 21:41 on a goal by the Lady Tigers’ McKenzie Dixon. But, at 21:08, Anna Lowery fed Campbell for her first goal of her hat trick.
At 16:13, that combination produced again for a 2-1 lead. Campbell made it 3-1 with a goal on a penalty kick.
Bentonville added a goal with 1:28 left by Gia Diaz.
Keeper Maddie Hawkins had four saves in the match.
“The girls out-fought Bentonville this time and came out on top,” Long said. “I was very pleased with our work ethic and how we competed.
“However, we could have done a lot of things better,” he mentioned. “We didn’t move the ball how we can; I felt we panicked some. Hopefully, we will learn how to handle some pressure through out the year.”
In the win over Fayetteville, Campbell broke the ice for the Lady Hornets with a goal on a penalty kick at 14:58 of the first half. She would add second-half goals at 26:43 and 7:56.
Fayetteville’s lone goal was off a corner kick with Gracie Cape getting it in the net was the 27:59 mark.
Hawkins had five saves while the Lady Hornets got clear for 10 shots.
“The girls played hard,” Long said. “We still have some kinds we need to get ironed out on both offense and defense. Hopefully, we can work toward that goal.
“On Friday, we really didn’t play to our full potential,” she related, regarding the Northside win. “Honestly, we got out-worked a by hard-fighting Northside team.
“However, the girls pulled that out in PK’s. We ended up going nine deep, which is pretty crazy. Usually, it takes five or six. However, it was good to come away with the win. Maddie came up big for us that game because she also had a PK save.”
Kierra Solinger, Lowery, Kendall Selig, Allison Hughes and Jad’n Nichols were each successful on the PKs during the shootout.
Now 4-0 on the season, the Lady Hornets are set to host North Little Rock on Tuesday. The match was originally scheduled to be played at North Little Rock but was moved to Bryant Sunday.