Saturday, March 15, 2008

SPORTS >>Lady Devils fall to SH

Leader sportswriter

Sylvan Hills junior forward Ashley English sliced her way through the Jacksonville Lady Red Devils’ defense for four goals on Thursday night at Bill Blackwood Field in a 6-0 win, improving the Lady Bears’ record to 3-2 and 2-2 in the 6A East Conference.

English struck early and often for the Lady Bears, putting her first goal on the board two minutes in with a shot from the left side. She followed that with a goal at the 25-minute mark with a straight ahead shot that gave Sylvan Hills a 2-0 lead at intermission.

“Our defense was able to keep the ball in front of them,” Sylvan Hills coach Jerry Peters said. “And we kept (Jacksonville) from making a counter attack. Offensively, we were able to move the ball in and out with triangle passes, and got it to our strikers.”
English gave way to teammates Jessica Pfeil and Hannah Harris late in the match, but not before racking up two more goals in the opening minutes of the second half. Her third goal was a breakaway in the second minute of the half, and her final goal at the 25:55 mark put it all but out of reach for the Lady Devils.

“I was pleased with how the team responded to Jacksonville tonight,” Peters said. “They were able to handle the ball and control it, and keep it away from Jacksonville’s players. Our goalkeeper also came up big for us when we needed her to.”

Jacksonville’s looks were limited in the first half, but the Lady Devils began to find their way into SH territory more in the second half. The Lady Red Devils lined up a couple of opportunities after intermission, but Lady Bears goalkeeper Hailey Norris thwarted the few attempts that came her way.

Peters said the team still has some inexperience on the wing, but added that he thought their strength in the middle will help them. While Jonesboro and Searcy look to dominate the league once again in ’08, he said his team can finish in the top half.

“We know we want to be a three seed; that’s what our goal is,” Peters said. “If we can get past Marion, and secure a win Monday against Mountain Home, those two games are huge for us. Those are our last two matches before spring break; I would love to go into spring break with those confidence builders for our team.”

Pfeil added another goal at the 20-minute mark with a nifty fake to the leftside, and Harris put an exclamation point on the game five minutes later with an assisted goal. The match was called due to bad weather in the final 15 minutes.

“We have several quality players up the middle,” Peters said. “Our defender, our sweeper, our stopper, our mid-fielder, and our center forward. After that, our talent level for understanding soccer drops off dramatically. So the idea that we had was to try and play the ball to our ball handlers. If we’re strong in the middle, and the girls on our wings, they are starting to learn and come along. I’m pleased with the progress I’m seeing from our girls that are still learning the game.”

Jacksonville goalkeeper Alexis Lennartz stopped a number of breakaway attempts and side shots by English and the SH offense, but repeated trips into the scoring zone by the Lady Bears proved to be too much. Lady Devils coach Tammy Lennartz said the team has good potential in their defender trio of Suzanne Burchette, Stacey Lennartz and Tiffany McNerlin, but said that it is communication, not mechanics, that is holding them back.

“We have to work on our communication,” Lennartz said. “Probably half of our team has never touched a soccer ball before this season. We’ve got the talent; we just have to make it click. They are a great group of girls, and we are proud of every one of them. We just have to get them to talk to one another on the field.”

The loss drops Jacksonville to 0-5.

The Lady Bears will host Mountain Home on Monday, while Jacksonville will host defending 6A champion Searcy.