New coach, new approach, new practice regimen, new mix of players (some experienced, some not), new tougher conference — growing pains.
That was actually a description of the Bryant Hornets football team at the start of last fall’s season when they suffered through a stunningly bad performance in their preseason scrimmage then opened the season in lackluster fashion, going 2-2 before gelling and, ultimately, finishing a win away from playing for a State championship.
The description could also apply to the Bryant Lady Hornets soccer team. And the growing pains continued Tuesday night when they opened play in the 7A-Central Conference with a 2-0 loss to the Fort Smith Southside Lady Mavericks.
Hannah Schmidt and Kelly Carson each managed a goal in the first half while the Lady Hornets went 0 for 6 on their attempts, with just three shots inside the box and only a couple of those with any power behind them. Southside’s defense was active, just enough to mess up Bryant’s timing on passes and shots. They were pretty physical at times.
Other than the two goals, Bryant’s defense was pretty tough as well. Goal keeper Brittney Warner had three saves while Jad’n Nichols and Sarah Kennedy, in particular, played forcefully in the back. Lady Hornets head coach James Paul pointed to a lack of communication that left defenders out of position on the two goals.
He added that he still saw some timid play, some uncertainty among his players.
“I’m confident in their ability physically, absolutely,” the coach said. “I’m not sure they believe in themselves quite yet. A lot of them are rookies on the field as far as Bryant High School Hornets goes. I think they’ve looked up to girls in the past so much, they don’t think they’re there yet.
“Well, it’s time,” he asserted. “It’s time to go; it’s time to be that person; it’s time to be that girl that everybody else looks up to. It’s their turn. And they’re fully capable. They just have to decide to do it.”
The team was much more assertive in the second half but just couldn’t get the ball in the net, missing five shots that were all in the box. It was obvious all game long that the Lady Mavs were going to do whatever they could to not let Bryant’s senior star Caroline Campbell beat them. She always drew a crowd when she got the ball inside 40 yards out. She was limited to just two attempts, one in each half.
Lauren Heath, Natalie Pierce and Rachel Studdard each launched a pair of shots in the game.
“At halftime, I told them they need to believe in themselves,” Paul related. “They need to realize that they are the ones that are going to be great and they have to choose to be great, choose to be successful. Don’t be afraid of success. Jad’n Nichols’ father talked to the team this week and that’s what he talked about, don’t be afraid to be successful. Don’t be afraid to mess up and just go for it.”
Regarding the team’s second-half play, he added, “They absolutely did respond in the second half, except it was too late. Too many missed balls, too many missed challenges, too many easy goals that we just didn’t capitalize on.
“But, after the game, what do you say to a group of girls that just got punched in the face?” the coach mentioned. “One of our other girls spoke about how many times you can get hit and still get back up. So, we need to remind ourselves that. We love what we do. We can get knocked down but we’re always going to get back up. Every great person eventually gets knocked down and we’ve got to go to work tomorrow.
“We’re upset now but tomorrow’s a new day,” James concluded. “We’ve got to go to work. We’ve got a job to do.”
The Lady Hornets’ next action will be a league match at Northside on Tuesday, March 14.