By Chris Morgan
With seven minutes left to play in the first half, Bryant Lady Hornet senior Jad’n Nichols went to the ground in the Bryant box, after awkwardly shifting, as she suffered an apparent knee injury. The Lady Hornets’ co-captain, who has played a pivotal role on the Bryant backline, was greatly missed after that on a night of near misses and close opportunities for the Lady Hornets, falling to the Fort Smith Southside Lady Mavericks 2-1.
“We depend so much on Jad’n and, because she is such a high-quality player, sometimes you cannot play to your potential if she is not here,” Coach Nicole Inman said. “I think Rachel (Studdard) and Abby (Patton) in the middle did fantastic. We also brought in Jillian (Colclasure) and she impacted the back line in a big way, and Ashlyn (Thompson) also, the back line just did so well.”
The team found itself behind early after an apparent miscommunication on defense, leaving the Lady Mavs to open up scoring with 36:30 left to play in the first half.
It would not be long until the Lady Hornets put the match back to even when Alyssa Fason stole the ball from a Southside defender, made a turn and put a solid shot to the right of the net past the keeper.
The night was decided by the goalkeepers. The Lady Hornets had six on-goal shots in the first half, four of which the Lady Mav keeper was forced to control.
Lady Hornet keeper Brittney Warner was called upon with 29 minutes left in the first half, having to make a one-on-one save after receiving pressure from the Lady Mavericks’ forwards.
With 24:33 left in the first half, Ashton Inman had on opportunity to give the Lady Hornets a lead with a penalty kick. The strike was targeted in the lower left corner and was miraculously saved and then immediately recovered by the keeper keeping the score locked at 1-1.
The Lady Honert would find four other scoring opportunities in the middle of the half all coming up just short of points.
With less than five minutes to go, all signs pointed to a draw at half time when the Lady Mavs received a free kick 3 yards beyond the 18-yard box. Bryant built a larger than usual defensive wall to protect the left side of the goal, however the ball was passed off, dribbled around the wall and placed in the back of the net with 3:35 left to play until halftime.
The Lady Hornets’ defense, without its captain, was called on once again before the half when the Lady Mavs took a corner. Warner took a commanding, leaping save to stop any scoring chances.
Now with less than a minute to work with until the half, Fason charged downfield, finding herself in a favorable position to score. The Lady Mavs’ defense simply outnumbered Fason, not allowing her to take a solid shot, giving the Southside keeper time to pounce and save the ball as time expired.
The Lady Hornets were forced to settle with a 2-1 deficit at the half.
Early in the second half the team found itself with all the momentum when Mary Catherine Selig took a 30-yard shot into the top left corner but a diving save kept the Lady Hornets down with 37:48 left in the game.
The team had multiple opportunities to score but time after time kept coming up short of producing.
The lack of scoring and constantly shifting calls from the refs caused noticeable frustration amongst the players.
“There was frustration because we had the majority of the possession and we were getting so many opportunities, we just were not finishing,” Coach Inman said.
The frustration built throughout the match, at one point causing Madison Humbard to have a conversation about an apparent missed call inside the Lady Maverick 18-yard box.
The same trend of dominance would continue for the Lady Hornets throughout the half all the way up into the last minute when the ref missed a clear late side on Melinda Hernandez in the last 30 seconds of the match which would have set the Lady Hornets up for a game-tying penalty kick.
The match would end just as the first half did, with a score line of 2-1 in the Lady Mavericks’ favor.
The Lady Hornets move to 7-3 overall and 2-2 in the 7A-Central Conference. Next, they play host to the Cabot Lady Panthers on Tuesday, April 3.