By Rob Patrick
VAN BUREN — If you’re going to be an upper echelon team, there are certain games that you[more] absolutely cannot lose. For instance, when you’re trying to hold onto second place in the conference and you’re playing the last-place team, which hasn’t won a conference game in a season that only has another week left.
There were some extenuating circumstances for the Bryant Lady Hornets who were in that position Monday night. For one thing, they were making the long trip to Van Buren. For another, they faced the challenge of not looking past the Lady Pointers to their showdown with league-leading Conway tonight.
But the Lady Hornets got it done, earning a 4-1 victory to improve to 15-7 overall this season and 8-3 against the 7A/6A-Central Conference going into their trip to Conway. Though they have little chance of catching the Lady Wampus Cats who are 10-0 in the league (with, among others, Van Buren still to play), the Lady Hornets need to win to keep sole possession of second and the inside track for the first-round bye that the top two seeds from the conference gain at the Class 7A State Tournament.
After the Conway game, Bryant hosts Conway on Thursday, May 5, then finishes the regular season at North Little Rock on Monday, May 9.
“The girls didn’t have their best game but they still came away with the win,” said Lady Hornets coach Julie Long of the Van Buren match. “The field was wet and slick and the girls were dragging from the bus trip too. But Van Buren came out fighting.”
The game was scoreless at halftime. It wasn’t until there was 25 minutes left in the contest that Tarra Hendricks got a free kick to Shelby Gartrell who scored Bryant’s first goal.
Gartrell got the second goal on a direct free kick then her sister Bailey Gartrell made it 3-0 on a penalty kick after she got free for a breakaway and got fouled in the box. Ashlyn Baughtman added the fourth goal.
Van Buren broke up the shutout with a goal in the final minute of the game. It was just the seventh game this season that the Lady Hornets had given up a goal during regulation play including three straight shutouts during regulation.
“The girls found a way to win,” Long said. “Now we are just focused on Conway.”