Photos by Rick Nation
By Martin Couch
BRYANT — Without Caroline Campbell on the field, the Bryant Lady Hornets are a different team.
Campbell, a sophomore striker, scored two goals to lead Bryant by Fort Smith Southside 5-2 in the quarterfinals of the Class 7A State girls’ soccer Tournament at Hornet Field.
With Bryant (19-2) ahead, 2-1, Campbell used a crossover move to get free in front of the Southside net for a goal in the third minute of the second half. Later in the half, Campbell broke free from the Southside defense and scored for a 5-2 lead in the 32nd minute.
“She plays with so much energy every single game,” Bryant coach Julie Long said. “I have never seen her play without energy. She came off and asked to be put back in after she missed her PK to get her confidence back up. She said I need one more and she found a way to do it. Just her presence on the field makes a difference. If she’s not the one scoring, she’s making a run to get somebody on or she’s passing to make the assist.”
Campbell didn’t get the first goal of the game, but passed the ball to a wide open Britney Sahlmann for a shot from the right side of the goal box into the left corner of the net for a 1-0 Bryant lead in the ninth minute of the first half.
Hadley Dickinson got Bryant’s second goal of the game on a middle kick just past the Southside goalie’s outstretched arms in the 16th minute.
Southside managed to get downfield to score and missed a penalty kick, but the deflection off the Bryant goalie allowed Laura Bolton to get a point-blank shot in for a goal to make it 2-1 in the 36th minute of the first half.
“One of the biggest problems we had at the first of the season was to be the first to step to the ball and that was our biggest focus when we watched Southside, because they pass the ball with their midfielders,” Long said. “So our biggest thing was that we emphasized on defense was just not let them get to the ball and they did a pretty good job of it. I was pretty impressed.”
Bryant’s defense won the ball at midfield more times than not, but in the 10th minute of the second half, Southside’s Nancy Mendoza fired in a penalty kick to cut the lead to 3-2.
“One thing I told them in the second half was that the score was 0-0 and to come out more fired up in the second half, because their goal came on us pretty easily,” Long said. “We talked about the next game didn’t matter, just take care of this one first and the girl’s came out prepared and ready to do that today.”
Dickinson got her second goal of the game in the 18th minute of the second half on a breakaway goal to give Bryant a 4-2 lead. Bryant doubled Southside in shots on goal, 14-7.
“The way that they bounced it around, they could come back quickly,” Long said. “Honestly, I was really worried about them because they are playing really well at the end of the season and they were beating teams like crazy up in their (7A-West) conference.”
Despite an injury that kept her out of the game for 15 minutes, Bryant goalie Maddie Hawkins had three saves.
Bryant will face off against Bentonville on Saturday morning at 10 in the semifinal match, which is a rematch between the two teams who battled for the 2014 State championship.