Friday, April 23, 2010

SPORTS >> Tourney bound, Falcons soccer drops two

Leader sportswriter

Little Rock Central and Little Rock Parkview beat the North Pulaski soccer teams in a pair of non-conference matches Thursday at Falcon Stadium.

The Lady Falcons (3-7) avoided a shutout with a last-minute goal in a 5-1 loss to Central, while the Falcons (6-9) lost 2-1 to Parkview.

Both Falcons teams have qualified for the 5A state tournament, which begins at Harrison High School on Friday.

The Lady Falcons will be the No. 3 seed out of the 5A-Southeast Conference and will play the No. 2 seed out of the West in the first round at 4 p.m. on Friday.

The Falcons tied with Monticello and Little Rock McClellan for third in the 5A Southeast, but Monticello won the tiebreaker to take the third spot while North Pulaski grabbed the last berth ahead of McClellan.

In Thursday’s boys game, Parkview scored its first goal just before halftime and added a second goal five minutes into the second half.

North Pulaski junior Dustin Branstetter pulled the Falcons within a goal when he scored in the final minute before time ran out on the comeback attempt.

The Falcons began the season at a shaky 1-5, but went on a four-game winning streak just before spring break.

“We started out slow; we had a lot of conflicts,” North Pulaski coach Tony Buzzitta said. “We have kids in the band, kids in the play — there were just a lot of other things going on. The kids on my teams are very strong academically.

“But it helps us now because we have a lot of guys who would not have been able to play as many minutes as they have this spring. Now I have a stronger bench and more experienced players.”

Central started the girls game with an early goal and added two more before the end of the first half for a 3-0 lead.

The Lady Falcons did not get many shots on goal until senior Claire Crews broke through the defense for a shot attempt in the 26th minute.

That trip came up empty, but Crews finally earned a free kick that led to a goal by freshman Cathryn Waylan in the final minute.

Defensively, Lady Falcons sophomore goalkeeper Aerial West had a number of tough stops, including one mid-way through the second half that appeared to be a sure goal for the Lady Tigers until West scooped up the ball with Central forwards quickly approaching.

Crews is one of seven seniors on this year’s Lady Falcons team along with Sarah Dickerson, Myranda Thomen, Erica Frost, Eva Zimmerman, Tara Taykowski and Michelle Treat.

The Lady Falcons qualified for the state tournament again this year despite being without last year’s leading scorer Jennifer Waylan for the better part of this season.

Waylan, a junior forward, is recovering from surgery on a tendon in her thumb and will not receive clearance until the season is over.

“We lost a few kids,” Buzzitta said of the girls team.

“Their record doesn’t really reflect how well they’ve played. We’ve improved a lot and we’ve had a tough schedule, so they have really done well.”

Buzzitta also said having the Jacksonville Soccer Association nearby also helps his players.

“Jacksonville has a good soccer program with the Jacksonville Soccer Association for off-season and rec. league,” he said. “We have some good athletes, and it helps us put together good teams every year.

“They are smart kids. I’m able to feed them a few tips along the way, and they pick up on it quick. That helps us get teams together and play competitively.”

The North Pulaski girls will travel across town to play at