FORT SMITH — Hoping to test themselves against Class 7A teams from the northwest corner of[more] the state, the Bryant Hornets soccer team traveled to a tournament in Fort Smith for games Friday and Saturday.
They opened the tourney on Friday night against one of those teams, the Bentonville Tigers, needing to win to get a chance to play some others. But, in a tight, well-played contest, and despite a valiant effort on defense that included 10 saves by keeper Slade Lewis, the Hornets suffered a 1-0 loss. The lone goal came with 18:20 left in the contest.
As a result, the Hornets finished out the tourney in the consolation bracket and they took out their frustrations from Friday with a 6-0 romp over Hot Springs Lakeside and a 5-0 victory over Mena in the consolation final on Saturday.
The Hornets improved to 6-1-1 going into Tuesday’s 7A/6A-South Conference contest at Benton.
The game with Bentonville was scoreless at the half.
“We looked like we were kind of jet-lagged from the long bus ride,” said Hornets coach Jason Hay. “Once we got there, we had about 30 minutes to get ready and we looked a little slow. Bentonville plays very direct. They’re a very physical, big team just like we knew they would be. We played a little bit on our heels.
“The second half, I thought we played a lot better,” he continued. “We had a lot more opportunities, several missed opportunities with one-v-one’s. We just didn’t make our shots.
“The goal they got was a miscommunication between the keeper and one of the defenders,” the coach mentioned. “It was kind of a junk goal.
“I thought we played well enough to win. We had one bad mistake and when you play a team that good, you can’t do that. But I thought the effort was there. I think we can compete with those teams.
In the win over Lakeside, Justin Travis got the Hornets on the board with 26:40 left in the first half. Before the half was over, Bryce Denker added a pair of goals on the way to a hat trick. At the 5:35 mark, he scored off an assist from Josh Lowery. At 4:10, Dylan Wolf fed him to make it 3-0.
In the second half, Bryan Oldham added to the total with 27:30 left then Denker found the back of the net for the third time on a penalty kick. Jeremy Anderson wrapped up the scoring with a goal at the 13:40 mark.
Lewis and Alex Denker both had saves in goal.
Denker went for the hat trick again in the win over Mena. Wolf broke the ice on the scoring at 29:01 of the first half with Lowery getting the assist. Wolf then assisted on Denker’s first goal at 26:05. At 22:00, Denker hit the mark again to make it 3-0, a lead that held through the rest of the half.
In the second half, Denker’s third goal once again came on a penalty kick. Oldham made it 5-0 with 5:20 to go.
Lewis had a save along the way.
“We’ve only given up three goals (in eight matches),” Hay noted. “One was a PK, one we scored and the one Friday was a ‘gimme’. Defensively, giving up just three goals is pretty good.
“We moved the ball really well (in the tournament),” he added. “We probably had possession 80 or 90 percent of the time against Lakeside and Mena. We looked crisp and that’s hard to do without anybody out there.”