Photos by Rick Nation and Kevin Nagle
Six minutes away from suffering their first 7A/6A-Central Conference loss in a first-place battle with the Mount St. Mary Academy Belles, the Bryant Lady Hornets battled back, scoring two goals in the final five minutes then won in a shootout.
Their ninth win in a row was a thriller that put the Lady Hornets on the verge of clinching the league’s No. 1 seed to the Class 7A State Tournament, which Bryant will host May 14-16.
“It was huge,” acknowledged Lady Hornets coach Julie Long, who led her team to the State finals a season ago. “The girls didn’t give. I’m so proud of them.
“I told the girls I didn’t think I had ever coached a group that fought back to win in the last five minutes.”
Mount scored the lone goal of the first half then, with nine minutes left, made it 2-0. Things looked dark for the Lady Hornets but, with five minutes to go, Anna Lowery found Caroline Campbell who drilled Bryant’s first goal.
Even then, Bryant seemed to be running out of time only to have Campbell find the range again off a feed from Britney Sahlmann with 1:33 remaining to tie it.
“They worked hard,” Long asserted. “Our intensity level was down but the girls picked it up when it mattered.
“Honestly, Mount St. Mary played hard,” she noted. “But we never gave up.”
Just like in their first match against each other on March 31, the game was to be decided on penalty kicks in a shootout and, once again, Bryant prevailed.
Campbell made the first attempt then Bryant goalkeeper Maddie Hawkins saved the Belles’ first shot.
“Maddie stepped up huge,” said Long. “We always tell her we just need one save. Caroline made hers then Maddie came up big on the first shot.”
Kierra Solinger’s shot was saved by the Mount St. Mary goalie but Hadley Dickinson took the third shot and made it to put the Lady Hornets in position to close it out. The Belles missed again so when Kendall Selig drilled her PK, it was over.
Bryant improves to 16-1 overall this season, 6-0 in league play overall, 4-0 against 7A foes in the conference, which are the only ones that count towards qualifying for State.
The Lady Hornets are set to take a break from conference play tonight against Pulaski Academy at home. They’ll return to league action against a 7A foe at Conway this Friday.