Photos by Rick Nation
The soccer game Tuesday night was the first time the Bryant Lady Hornets would face a team that[more] was almost a mirror image of themselves. Coming into the season, the girls knew the biggest challenge against them would probably be the Conway Lady Wampus Cats. In their previous two games, the Lady Hornets were not really challenged on the defensive side of the ball. That was all a build-up for last night’s game.
And the two teams battled to a scoreless tie in regulation and, in a shootout, Conway prevailed.
Erica Selig started off right away challenging the Conway keeper. Alway ready to pounce if she made a mistake, Tarra Hendricks had a throw-in to Shelby Gartrell who then took the shot. But it was saved by the Lady Wampus Cats’ keeper.
Twenty minutes in, everyone in the stands was thinking the same thing: The first team to make the tiniest mistake is going to be the one to get scored on.
When I say Conway and Bryant look like a mirror images, they looked like a mirror images. The speed was the same, the defenders were always there to drive the ball back to the other side of the field and both keepers refused to let that ball cross into their side of the net.
At 16:23, Bryant keeper Kaitlyn Miller had a nice save low and in the middle. She was an immovable object in front of the goal. Nothing was going to get past her. She finished with 11 saves.
And when she wasn’t saving the ball herself, she had help from Lyndsay Brazil, McKenzie Adams and London Abernathy.
Abernathy has good speed and the wits to know what she needs to do to help out her keeper when she’s in trouble. I know younger players that really look up to her.
At 13:23, Hendricks broke free with both Madison Land and Kristin Cartwright in front of her, but the Conway defenders kicked it out just so they could regroup and get more defenders back to help.
At 9:32, Conway had a free kick that soared into the box but was headed out by Hendricks back to a Lady Wampus Cat who shot again. But this time it was kicked away by Miller.
Hendricks took a corner kick with 6:03 left in the first half that had to be stopped by the Conway keeper inside the goal. She hit it out but it went right back to Hendricks who shot again. This time it slammed off the top rail.
She had a free kick from 61 yards away, it went 56 and stopped by the keeper. The Lady Hornets went into halftime knowing they just lasted 40 minutes against a very good team but knowing there were still 40 to go.
More then half of the second half was played on the Bryant side. Conway was throwing everything they had at the girls but they were staying strong. The Lady Hornets were bending but not breaking. Miller added another save to her list at 15:00 when she stopped a shot that came from 25 yards out.
At 13:07, Conway got a yellow card for a player pushing a Lady Hornet down. The coach for the Lady Wampus Cats did not like it and she made it known. But then the ref made it known that she had the final say and drew out a red card on the coach and sent her off the field.
Conway had a free kick from 52 yards out that hit the top rail as Miller went back for it. On both sides of the field in the stands hands went in the air, “Oh’s” coming from the Conway side and sighs coming from the Bryant side.
Hendricks took another free kick at 10:18 but no good. The ball went back to play on the Bryant side and Dylan Vail had a great save at 9:52 that would have put a point on the board for Conway had she not been there.
Hendricks again took a free kick at 4:23 from 48 yards out but it was headed out at the last second before if crossed into the goal.
With :51 seconds left in the game, the Lady Wampus Cats tried one last time to get a goal but Miller stopped a 33 yard free kick. With the final horn sounding and the score 0-0, it was time to go straight into penalty kicks.
The end zone where the penalty kicks were going to be attempted towards would be the “magical” north end zone. It has been perfect in football, how would it be in futbol?
First up was Conway. No goal. 0-0
Next was Katie Moore for Bryant. No goal, over the top rail. 0-0
Conway’s turn. Goal. It was 1-0.
Selig up next. Good in the lower right side. 1-1
Conway made it 2-1
Lexie Balisterri was good at the top right corner. 2-2
Conway’s next PK was good making it 3-2.
Lauren Reed was up next for the Lady Hornets. She shot low and to the left but the Conway keeper stopped it. Still 3-2.
On the next round, if Conway missed Bryant would have one more try for the tie. The shot was good, however, to clinch the win.
After the game Coach Julie Long had nothing but good things to say about the girls.
“They played their hearts out and I am very proud of them.”
Asked if she will tweak anything for the coming game against Cabot, she said, “Not a thing. The way they played was perfect. In fact I feel sorry for them. Cabot will not know what’s coming.”
I couldn’t say it any other way.