Tuesday, May 11, 2010

SPORTS>>Young Lady Lions kick in, take crown

Leader sportswriter

The points Searcy needed all came from freshmen while the seniors provided the leadership — and a few assists.

That’s how the Lady Lions claimed their third 6A state championship in four seasons in a 3-1 victory over previously unbeaten El Dorado at Fayetteville’s Razorback Field on Friday.

The Lady Lions (18-4-2) took the lead when senior McKenzie Clark assisted freshman forward Avery Albright for the first goal with 16 minutes left in the first half, and Albright got another assist from classmate Ashley Barnes in the final minute to give
Searcy an insurance score after the Lady Wildcats began to rally.

“Any time you’re up by one goal, you get nervous,” Lady Lions coach Larry Stamps said. “It was close the whole game. They had a good goalkeeper; she was probably the toughest we’ve seen all year.

“Of course, we helped her out a few times and took it right to her, and we had one sail just barelyover her head. It looked like it was going to go over but the wind sent it back down. We’ll take that.”

The score remained 1-0 until freshman McKenna Smith scored to put Searcy up 2-0 mid-way through the second half. El Dorado stayed alive with a goal from Megan Clay around the 30-minute mark to make it 2-1, and then began to dominate possession.

But Albright scored her second goal of the match to stop the Lady Wildcats’ rally and give Searcy the 3-1 lead with little time for El Dorado to strike back.

“That girl can just go,” Stamps said. “She has played that way all year long. I don’t want to build her up too much, but the girl can go. I actually believe she would cough up a lung before telling somebody she needed off the field. She’s that determined and competitive.”

Senior forward/midfielder Clark was held without a goal in her final match as a Lady Lion, but she set up Searcy’s first score with a breakaway feed to Albright. Clark, a four-year standout, was named MVP.

“Those seniors knew what was on the line,” Stamps said. “They knew they could be the group that was first to win three championships and go to the finals four years in a row.

“We had a player go down in a practice, and she went to leave the field, and the seniors started yelling, ‘Get back here, we need you.’ That’s the kind of leadership you have to have. You have to have leadership like that from your seniors, or it can be a long season.”

While the underclassmen should help with Searcy’s success for years to come, Stamps said the loss of Smith will leave the Lady Lions short a strong leader next year.

“She has just done so much this year,” Stamps said. “Plus, she has put up with me for four years, so that’s pretty good.”

Stamps was somewhat reserved after the game as a show of respect to El Dorado, which had a dream season end with its only loss to Searcy in the final. Last year, it was Stamps and his Lady Lions who fell to Mountain Home in the championship game.

“I didn’t want to jump up and down too much and cheer and all of that,” Stamps said. “Because I’ve been there, and I know how El Dorado felt. I remember how I felt last year, and it’s not fun.”