Tuesday, April 26, 2011

SPORTS >> Lady Bears clinch, boys in middle of scrap

Leader sportswriter

The prospect of a historic season is growing closer to fruition for the Sylvan Hills Lady Bears.

Sylvan Hills, 6-1 in the 5A-Southeast Conference, has clinched the No. 2 seed for the state tournament. The Lady Bears’ likely opponent will be Arkadelphia, which is on its way to securing a No. 3 seed out of the 5A-Southwest Conference.

Lady Bears soccer teams have made numerous trips to the state playoffs, but have always entered as a No. 3 or No. 4 seed, and have never advanced out of the first round.

At the start of the season coach Nate Persson set the goal of capturing a first-round victory.

“We’re looking pretty good right now,” Persson said. “Things have been going well. We’re scoring a lot of goals and playing well defensively.”

The only personnel setback for Sylvan Hills has been an ankle injury to freshman Calyn Fulton, who also plays volleyball and basketball. The injury has nagged Fulton off and on for close to a year, and with her latest mishap, her doctor ordered two weeks of recovery time.

Fulton was cleared to return to action in time for Tuesday night’s home game against North Pulaski.

“We’ve accomplished all that we need for the regular season, so we really don’t need her until state begins,” Persson said. “I’m debating on whether or not to sit her out longer and let her recover some more, or let her get in there and get more of the experience she needs.”

The Lady Bears defeated Mills 4-1 and won at Monticello by forfeit before tying Sheridan 2-2 in a non-conference game. Dominant Little Rock Christian handed Sylvan Hills its only league loss so far, 9-1.

Freshman Abi Persson has emerged as the Lady Bears’ primary scoring threat despite being a midfielder instead of playing the traditional scoring position of forward. Persson has over 20 goals for the season, and for coach and father Nate Persson, it has made the experience even sweeter.

“It’s been a source of pride for me,” Persson said. “Not just her skills, but also the heart she is developing. The one thing that she lacks in her game is conditioning, and she’s been working hard at it.

“Little by little, she’s developing stamina.”

The Sylvan Hills boys find themselves in the middle of a heated race in the 5A-Southeast Conference with three teams separated by one game in the standings.

Sylvan Hills lost to Mills University Studies 5-4 in overtime after battling to a 3-3 tie at the end of regulation.

The Bears bounced back from their Mills loss to win at Monticello 4-2. Sylvan Hills then took its third conference loss in a 7-0 shutout to Little Rock Christian.

As it stands, the Bears are tied with Mills for third in the Southeast Conference at 4-3. Little Rock Christian is in first at 7-0 and will most likely wrap up yet another league title, while White Hall (4-2) is second.