The Bryant Lady Hornets soccer team makes its 2010 season debut under new head coach Julie Long on Friday evening at 5 o’clock against the Benton Lady Panthers at C.W. Lewis Stadium.
Long, a native of West Plains, Mo., played soccer at Harding University and coached both the boys and girls teams at Nettleton in 2009.
“I actually walked into what I feel is a very talented team,” she stated Wednesday. “The girls have done nothing but work hard for me. I feel like I can say, ‘Run through a wall,’ and they would say, ‘Yes, ma’am.’ I mean, they’ve worked so hard for me. That’s been the biggest advantage to coaching these girls. I’ve never been able to coach a team that’s been like that, that’s always working hard.[more]
“We might not be the most talented team but we will be the most fit team,” she added. “I’ve got them running like crazy. But fitness can take you a long way.”
Bryant is coming off a 12-9 season, which included a trip to the Class 7A State Tournament where they suffered a heartbreaking 2-1 loss to a Fort Smith Southside team that wound up making it to the semifinals.
Long will welcome back all-State performer Haley Montgomery once basketball season is done. Montgomery recently signed a soccer scholarship offer from the University of Central Arkansas in Conway.“She’ll come in and help us out a ton,” Long said. “But I actually have a pretty strong freshman class that’s going to help us out a lot too.”
McKenzie Adams, one of those freshmen, along with sophomore London Abernathy are expected to join the team after basketball season as well.
Going over the starters for the opener, Long said, “My goal-keeper for right now is probably going to be Kaitlyn Miller. And I actually have a couple of other girls that I’m looking at for keeper. Eventually, somebody may move up and take that place.”
On the backline, she continued, will include Tarra Hendricks, Sarenity Gomez, Emily Smith, and Lindsay Brazil. Jessica Baugh will come in off the bench to help.
At midfield, Katie Moore has been injured but will be cleared to play after March 1. Maggie Hart, Lexi Balisterri and Lauren Reed will play there as well. Erica Selig will also see a lot of playing time.
“Up top, Haley will be there whenever she comes out,” Long said. “But, starting off right now, that position is still up in the air. I feel like all my strikers are pretty much straight across the board.”
Those include freshman Shelby Gartrell, Madison Land and Bailey Gartrell.
“I feel like almost all my girls could come in off the bench and help out,” Long stated. “I really mean that. I haven’t even completely picked a JV and a varsity team because that’s how close I think they are. I’m very fortunate that I have a lot of depth on my bench, to where if I think I need to replace some people I don’t think we’ll miss a beat.”
The team also includes Ashlen Baughtman, Bailey Schlesier, Kaitlin Gaiser, Kristen Tipton, Taylor Bryant, Jessica Alyiffe, Lauren Boyer, Lizzy White, and Sarah Cockerham.
Though new to the 7A-Central Conference, Long is well aware of its strength.
“I know that Conway and Mount St. Mary are always up there at the top,” she said. “From there on down, pretty much, I think it’s anybody’s game. I feel like we can compete with those teams as well. We’re going to have a very solid team this year. If they keep working like they’re working right now for the rest of the season, we won’t be disappointed with our results.”
The Lady Hornets’ home opener is against Texarkana on Thursday, Feb. 25.