Monday, April 23, 2012

SPORTS >> Panther girls beat Cyclones, stay alive

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Lady Panthers kept themselves in the thick 7A Central Conference race with a hard fought 3-2 victory on the road against Russellville on Tuesday.

Sophomore Jessica Souza scored the winning goal for the Lady Panthers (10-3, 6-2) in the final five minutes with a perfect setup and assist from freshman sensation Braxton Reed, who pulled defenders away to set Souza up for a one-on-one with the Lady Cyclones’ goalkeeper. Souza won the battle with a kick into the bottom right corner for the winner.

Cabot led 2-1 at the half before the Lady Cyclones tied the game midway through the second half on a free kick.

“We played the next 20-minute span brilliantly,” Lady Panthers coach Kerry Castillo said. “We controlled possession in their half and were patiently looking for the goal rather than forcing the ball into situations that would result in turnovers.  Braxton Reed, Lexi Lewis, and Jessica Souza were wonderful for us in the attack by holding the ball up on the dribble to allow runs to be made behind their defense.”

Sophomore Codee Park tied the game 1-1 for Cabot in the first half when she converted a 25-yard free kick from the left side, and put the Lady Panthers in the lead later in the half with another free kick, this one from 18 yards out.

Park was a question mark coming into the game due to a nagging ankle injury, but told Castillo it felt fine prior to the start.

Cabot’s defense also came up big against Russellville, as freshman Taylor Brady, sophomore Devin Patterson and junior Leah Srebalus turned away many of the Lady Cyclones’ best chances to score in the second half.

The victory gives the Lady Panthers sole possession of third place in the 7A Central Conference standings.

A strong effort from a young Cabot boys team fell short against a veteran Russellville group in a 2-0 road loss on Tuesday.

The Cyclones scored their first goal in the opening 15 minutes with a pressured attack before Cabot’s defense settled in. Both teams struggled offensively the rest of the way.

When the Panthers had to get more aggressive on offense in the final minutes of the match, Russellville took advantage with a counter attack that led to the final goal in the 33rd minute.

“The boys played really hard tonight and left everything they had on the field,” Cabot coach Steve Porter said. “I’m proud of how well they did under the circumstances. Due to injuries we started four ninth-graders and one tenth-grader, and we played another two ninth-graders off the bench. By age we are more like a junior varsity team, but by ability we can compete with all the teams in our conference.”

The Panthers beat Russellville in the first meeting between the two 7A Central Conference teams last month. The Cyclones took advantage of their home-field advantage, and the momentum of defeating league-leading Little Rock Catholic four days prior. The Panthers are now 4-4 in the 7A Central Conference.

“We just need a touch of luck maybe to make up for our lack of size, strength and experience to take us over the edge,” Porter said. “We are not losing due to a lack of effort, or discipline or focus for sure. Our conference is tough, nine out of the 14 7A State Soccer Championships have been won by our conference including seven of the past eight. My goal is to help Cabot get to a position where we can compete for one. I think we are heading in the right direction.”

The Cabot Panthers and Lady Panthers played at Conway last night after The Leader deadlines.