The Cabot Lady Panthers have been the surprise soccer team in the 7A/6A-Central Conference this[more] season, winning over opponents few expected them to compete with. They came into Tuesday night’s match at Bryant Stadium tied with the Lady Hornets for second place, a game behind the Conway Lady Cats in the league standings.
And, for a half, the Lady Hornets found out why Cabot has done so well. The two teams battled to a scoreless tie at the intermission but Bryant took control early in the second half and grounded the Lady Panthers, 4-0. It was the ninth shutout for the Lady Hornets, their third in the last four matches as they bounced back from a tough 1-0 loss to Conway. They improved to 11-3 overall and 5-1 in conference play going into a trip to North Little Rock on Friday.
“They play with a lot of heart,” acknowledged Lady Hornets coach Julie Long, regarding Cabot. “That can make up for a lot. They were really good. They put a lot of pressure on us especially in the first half.
“The second half, the girls came out fired up,” she said. “Apparently, we’re a second-half team this year.”
Cabot’s best opportunity to break up the shutout came in the first half.
“They had one chance that London (Abernathy) saved,” Long related. “It was all but in. One of their top players got away from us in the back and took a one-v-one with (keeper) Kaitlyn Miller. It went over Mill but London just kept running and cleared it out before it got to the goal. I’m not sure how it happened but it was nice.
Bryant’s first goal came in the opening moments of the second half.
“It was a weird goal,” Long said. “Lexie (Balisterri) was trying to cross it in (off a pass from Bailey Gartrell) but it went in to the keeper. The keeper turned and faced into the goal (as she made the would-be save) and it crossed the plane (of the goal line). So it counted as a goal.”
Long verified the controversial call with a look at the game video later but, she said, at the time, “I was really hoping that wasn’t our only goal because I didn’t want it to be controversial.
“But that kind of started our momentum,” the coach added.
It wasn’t long before Bryant was on the board again. “Katie Barrington plays a ball across the middle and Rori (Whittaker) takes a one-touch shot and it goes right over the keeper,” Long recounted.
The third goal was a beauty, the coach indicated.
“It was very nice,” she stated. “(Cabot) had a PK (penalty kick) when we fouled them in the box. Miller made an awesome save. It was a good shot but she just made a really good save. And we countered off the PK.”
Miller hadn’t caught the ball on the save and it didn’t go out of bounds off the carom so Emily Pierce gained control of the ball for Bryant and played the ball to Bailey Gartrell.
“Bailey just took it in,” Long said. “I mean it was right after the PK. That was one of those momentum changing things in the game. That was huge for us and it was fun.”
To cap off the scoring late in the contest, Balisterri added her second goal.
“She saw Rori across and Rori was wide open on the backside,” the coach recalled. “She was trying to cross but she got all the way down to the end and she slid to make the cross and it chipped in off the back post. It just went in.
“Overall, the girls played really, really well,” she concluded. “I was proud of them.
“Now, we’re just looking to take care of North Little Rock,” said Long. “That’s been our big thing, just taking it one game at a time. And that’s what we’ve done. Every game, these girls come out and try to prove themselves over and over again. It’s been good.”