Of course, it had to come down to PK’s. That’s been the case in the Bryant Hornets last four matches. And, after winning the first two, the Hornets have now come up on the short end twice as the Fort Smith Southside Mavericks outlasted them 7-6 in the shootout to win the 7A-Central Conference opener for both teams at Bryant Stadium.
Bryant led most of the contest but with 3:33 left to play, the Mavs were awarded a penalty kick after a hand ball and Sydney Oliver converted to tie it up.
“We made a sloppy pass back and put ourselves at issue and made a bad decision,” said Bryant coach Richard Friday.
The Hornets had taken the lead late in the first half, when Martin Ramirez split a pair of Southside defenders on a charge ahead of the pack and beat the Mavs’ keeper with 2:49 left.
Ramirez just missed adding another goal moments later, off a rebound after a corner kick.
Early in the second half, Angel Rodriguez made a couple of nice moves to get a shot but it sailed over the goal.
“I told them that we lost the game, the other team didn’t beat us,” said Friday of his talk with the team after the match. “We made mental mistakes and didn’t come out ready to play. Our touches were bad throughout the game. Our decision-making was bad throughout the game.
“And, instead of doing the right things, we did the wrong things the majority of the time, which ended up keeping the other team in the game,” he added. “One bad decision and it goes to PK’s and, from there, it’s a crap shoot.”
Jack Selig started the shootout by getting a shot past the Southside keeper, Kyle Denne. The Mavericks answered with Andres Flores. But the Hornets were under the gun when Angel Rodriguez, who had come back into the game after being sidelined with a sore knee, missed wide.
In turn, Derek Gutierrez gave Southside the upper hand. Ricky Barrientos kept Bryant alive followed by Jhorman Cruz and Dawson Oakley.
Southside, which had kept the pressure on with PK’s from Eric Ramirez and Alex Mendoza, gave the Hornets an opening when Jesse Garcia hit the post on the right side. In response, James Lasley converted for Bryant.
The Mavericks needed a goal from Chris Orellana to stay alive and, though Bryant keeper John Sohn got a hand on his shot, it got through.
In turn, Denne got a save on Martin Ramirez’ PK so when Southside’s Connor Robles got his shot through, it was decisive.
The Hornets had defeated Southside just last week in the semifinals of the Fort Smith Invitational on PK’s, 4-2, after regulation ended 1-1. In that shootout, Sohn had turned back the Mavericks with a pair of saves.
Bryant went on to lose in a shootout in the championship match against Fort Smith Northside but Friday was pleased with the way his team played throughout the tourney. Regarding Tuesday’s match, he said the team may have been a little over-confident and didn’t see the same intensity.
“That’s all it was,” he added. “If you look at the team that we took up to Fort Smith and how we played compared to today, it was like night and day. We pressed. We worked hard up there. We didn’t give up goals. We didn’t give up shots. We didn’t give up effort. The decision-making, even though it wasn’t always the best decision, we’re making fast decisions. Today, we’re were mentally just one step behind.
“Hopefully, we rebound and learn from our mistakes,” the coach concluded. “I think these guys will come out and work tomorrow.”
The Hornets will return to conference action with a pair of tough assignments next week. They return to Fort Smith for a rematch with Northside on Tuesday, March 14, then travel to take on Little Rock Catholic on Thursday, March 16.