Lady Hornets’ flurry at the end of the first half sparks win over Russellville

Photo by Rick Nation

Facing a gauntlet of four games in six days with each outing against a little bit more[more] accomplished opponent, the Bryant Lady Hornets won their fourth game in a row and their 11th in the last 12 contests, 5-1, over the Russellville Lady Cyclones Friday night.

Lexie Balisterri (Photo by Rick Nation)

Five different players scored goals including three quick ones in the final seven minutes of the first half that broke open a 1-1 contest.

Now 15-3 overall and 9-1 in the 7A/6A-Central Conference, the Lady Hornets remained a game off the pace of league-leading Conway going into Monday’s road trip to play fourth-place Mount St. Mary Academy. A win over the Belles, as tough as that may be, would set up a showdown with Conway’s Lady Cats, who are unbeaten in conference play after edging Little Rock Central, 1-0, Friday night.

The Bryant-Russellville tussle was scoreless until just less than eight minutes remained in the first half. That’s when siblings Shelby Gartrell and Bailey Gartrell teamed up for the first goal. Shelby got the assist on her sister’s shot.

Russellville answered quickly to tie it but that only served to fire up the Lady Hornets who unleashed a barrage in the closing moments of the half.

Shelby Gartrell snapped the tie off a feed from Rori Whittaker. Moments later, Lauren Reed scored with Katie Moore getting the assist. And when Maggie Hart fed Whittaker for a goal, Bryant held a 4-1 lead going into the intermission.

While the defense held the Lady Cyclones scoreless in the second half, Bryant added a goal by Lexie Balisterri with Kaitlin Gaiser getting the assist.

“We picked it up and played really hard after both teams had scored once,” said Lady Hornets head coach Julie Long.

“I’m really proud of where my girls are at right now,” she added. “They look like a completely different team than I’ve ever seen them look. Every game, our goal has been to get better and, every game, we are getting better. They’ve come a long way. They’re still listening. They’re still coachable. They’re all playing well.”

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