Photos by Kevin Nagle
The Bryant Hornets soccer team continued to plow through 7A/6A-South Conference opponents[more] in their quest of a league title and a first-round bye at the Class 7A State championship Friday night. Junior Bryce Denker had a hat trick and a assists on two more goals as the Hornets dismissed the Texarkana Razorbacks 6-0 at Bryant Stadium.
The Hornets’ junior varsity kept their unbeaten season going with a 4-0 win. They have yet to be scored upon this season.
It was the varsity team’s third lopsided win in as many matches since its stunning 2-1 loss to Benton on April 12. At 16-2-1 overall, they’ve now won 12 of their last 13. They allowed fewer than two goals in all of their games but two in which they gave up just a pair. It was their 11th shutout of the season.
The Hornets enter the final week of the regular season 11-1 in conference play. They’ll host Pulaski Academy in a non-conference match on Monday, April 29 then travel to Lake Hamilton for a league match on Tuesday before concluding the regular season against El Dorado on Friday, May 3.
The Class 7A State Tournament will be held in North Little Rock starting May 9. Bryant, which will be seeded among the 7A-West teams for State, is in contention for one of the top two seeds, which both get first-round byes in the tourney.
“I think we got better,” stated Hornets coach Jason Hay regarding the win over Arkansas High. “I thought we played the ball, possessed it and got up and down the field well just like we did at Sheridan (Thursday).
“Since the Benton game, we’ve been playing better,” he noted. “We’re looking to finish out on a good note next week, play for a good seed in the playoffs, get that bye, and trying to win a share of a conference championship.”
The Hornets grabbed a 3-0 lead in the first half Friday. Denker assisted Evan Caddy on the opening goal at the 22:47 mark. At 16:15, he put it in the net for the first time off a feed from Dylan Wolf.
It stayed 2-0 until the final two minutes of the first half when Wolf got his second assist, this time Justin Travis was the beneficiary as he popped one past the keeper.
In the second half, the Hornets whipped up three more goals in the first 10 minutes. At 36:04, Josh Lowery scored with Denker providing the assist. At 31:28, it was Denker finding the back of the net off a feed from Travis. To cap off the scoring, Denker drilled his third goal on a penalty kick.
“We’ve been working on our fitness,” Hay noted. “The first part of the (conference) season, having to sub out so early (due to lopsided scores), I think it hurt us fitness-wise. We’ve been coming back and running after we play, trying to get into shape because I know the time’s coming where we’re going to have to play a full 80 (minutes). We’ve been working and I think the kids are responding.”
As has been often the case, the JV team wound up finishing the varsity contest — Bryant has outscored its opponents 89-10. Usually the JV plays the first match of the evening but, because of threatening weather, their contest was moved to the end. They played just one 30-minute half. Evan Caddy and Danny Vivar each had two goals in the win. Houston Chavis assisted on both of Caddy’s goals. Krishna Gurung assisted on both of Vivar’s.