Wednesday, May 05, 2010

SPORTS >> Falcons’ boys, girls make an early exit

North Pulaski’s Michelle Treat battles a Jacksonville player for possession.


Leader sportswriter

North Pulaski teams made an early exit from the 5A state tournament in Harrison over the weekend.

Both teams struggled with foul weather and tough draws, as the host Harrison Goblins beat the North Pulaski boys 6-0 and the North Pulaski girls lost to Greenbrier by the same score.

Harrison, the No. 1 seed out of the 5A West, took a 2-0 halftime lead over the Falcons, but North Pulaski found moving the ball difficult in winds up to 30 mph.

“We couldn’t keep the ball out of our own end,” Falcons coach Tony Buzzitta said. “If you didn’t play it on the ground, it just flew back over on our side. The second half wore us down. We had a chance, but they were just too much in the second half. The kids never gave up, though.”

Harrison kept the ball on North Pulaski’s end for most of the second half and added four more goals. The Goblins faced Paragould in the second round on Saturday and advanced to the semifinals with another 6-0 victory.

The Falcons finished the season 6-10.

“There were parts of the season where we overachieved and some parts where we underachieved,” Buzzitta said. “It took us a while to get in a rhythm, but we played pretty well most of the year.”

The Falcons lose a strong group of 10 senior players, including three-year starter Mathew Ingersoll and four-year starters Derek Gililland and Jonathan Buzzitta.

The Lady Falcons also faced severe weather conditions in their first-round game with Greenbrier’s Lady Panthers.

A rain delay 20 minutes into the match halted play for several minutes, and the Lady Panthers came out strong when things resumed. Greenbrier scored four goals in the remainder of the first half and found the net twice in the second half against an improved North Pulaski defense.

“During the rain delay, they decided to leave it all on the field,” Buzzitta said. “They went out an relaxed and had a good time and played their butts off. It was really a tale of two halves.”

The Lady Falcons (4-9) are losing key seniors, including four-year starters Tara Taykowski and Myranda Thomen. Michelle Threat is another experienced senior who is departing after lettering three years. But the biggest loss among the seven departing seniors is forward Claire Crews.

Crews led the Lady Falcons offensively and had on-field chemistry with junior standout forward Stephanie Alvis. Crews is also North Pulaski’s last remaining athlete from its only state championship in any sport — the 400-meter relay championship won in 2007.

“It’s going to be tough,” Buzzitta said. “Offensively, I’m just not sure how we will be, but we should be pretty good defensively.”

Returning with Alvis next year will be key defender Mercedes Wilson and goalkeeper Jennifer Waylan, who sat out most of the season with injuries. Fellow goalkeeper Ariel West will return for her junior season, as will Jordan Sereal.