Photos by Rick Nation
NORTH LITTLE ROCK — In the 2010 Class 7A State soccer tournament, the Bryant Lady Hornets and the Fort Smith Southside Lady Rebels met in[more] the quarterfinals. In a match that went through two overtimes and into a shootout, the Lady Hornets, who had an incredible knack in the shootouts, advanced to the State semifinals for the first time as Southside’s season came to a close.
This year, the two tangled again with a trip to the semifinals on the line. And, again, it went through two overtimes and into the shootout only to have Southside win it this time, bringing the Lady Hornets’ season to a difficult end.
“It was a heartbreaker,” acknowledged Lady Hornets coach Julie Long. “I’m so sad for my girls. They were upset. Anytime you play a game like that and you’ve played that hard for 100 minutes and you come away with a loss, it’s really hard on them.
“But you’ve got to find a way to put the ball in the back of the net and we didn’t do it today,” she continued.
“I was so proud of the girls,” Long emphasized. “They fought until the very, very end. They never stopped fighting.”
The Lady Rebels took the early advantage in the shootout when they scored after Bryant’s McKenzie Adams misfired. Abernathy was able to find the net on the Lady Hornets’ second try and when Southside missed it made the teams even. Lexie Balisterri took a shot and was unable to find the back of the net. Southside regained the advantage with a goal on its subsequent attempt.
Moore responded in the clutch with what Long called, “an awesome shot” to keep the Lady Hornets’ hopes alive. Again, however, the Lady Rebels answered to retain the edge. Lauren Reed got one last shot at drawing the Lady Hornets even but she missed and Southside had the win.
“It wasn’t our best showing on PK’s,” Long reiterated. “But I was really proud of the girls for the way they played. They have nothing to hold their heads down about. They played probably one of the best games I’ve seen them play the entire year.
“We controlled the game most of the way,” she added, “and it was just that the girls fought so hard. The girls played with a lot of heart today. We played with way more heart.”
The Lady Hornets launched 20 shots on goal for the game. Southside attempted just seven.
“The first 20 minutes was probably the only time we didn’t play like amazing but the wind was a big factor again today,” Long said.
“To me, we controlled the overtimes,” she stated. “It was kind of like (Friday, in Bryant’s shootout win over Rogers Heritage). I didn’t think that it was ever a question of if they were going to score, it was more, if we were going to score.”
Southside grabbed the lead early in the game on a penalty kick.
“They called a hand ball on London in the box and it really just bounced up and hit her between her elbow and her shoulder,” Long explained. “Most of the time, refs don’t call that unless it’s intentional but that one did.
“So we had to fight back from that and the girls did a really good job responding to it. Having someone score on you that early can really create a negative atmosphere in a game, especially on something like that. But the girls — I mean they played their tails off the whole time.”
It stayed 1-0 until halftime. In the second half, there were about 20 minutes left when Bryant tied it.
“Tarra (Hendricks) had a free kick and it kind of bounced around the Katie Moore had a nice shot,” Long recounted. “It hit the crossbar and actually bounced off the keeper and went in. It was a pretty shot.
“Katie Moore probably had one of the best games I’ve ever seen her play,” she continued. “They all played so hard. They were ready to play today and it showed.”
The Lady Hornets finish the season with a 17-10 overall record.
“The girls had a really good season,” Long concluded. “To me, it’s another building year. We’re losing three seniors but I still think that we’re not going to be hurting next year either. They know that. The girls talked to me after the game and they’re ready. They need a break right now but they’ll be ready and focused again for next year. Hopefully, we’ll go out and do the same thing again only finish up in a better position in the end.”