Tuesday, May 01, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Late surge has Bears peaking at right time

Leader sportswriter

Sam Persson is not surprised that his Sylvan Hills Bears have managed a complete season turnaround.

The sixth-year head coach has had young groups before during his tenure, and this young group has followed a similar path as clubs before them. The Bears followed a successful runner-up finish in the local River City Rivalry Cup tournament with two vital 5A Southeast Conference wins last week to put themselves back in the hunt for a top playoff seed.

Sylvan Hills avenged an earlier conference loss to Mills University Studies by shutting out the Comets in a 6-0 shutout on the road Tuesday before closing the week with another impressive outing against Little Rock Parkview in a 3-1 victory on Friday.

“I just knew coming in that we were going to have to integrate a lot of inexperienced players into our lineup,” Persson said. “And a lot of times, you’ve got to take it on the chin some early on, but you have to see if the guys are going to be able to get up from that. They’re getting better and continue to work hard in practice.”

Senior forward Jeremiah Persson led the way offensively in both games, scoring two goals against Mills and two more in the victory over Parkview.

Following Persson in the Mills win was a host of Bears, including defender Eddie Higgins. Sophomores Chace Pieper and Kylan Wade also added a goal each, and freshman Anthony Miller set the final margin with a late goal.

“We always felt like we didn’t deserve to lose the first game,” Sam Persson said. “We had chances and didn’t finish, but we’re finishing a whole lot better. Defensively, we’re denying opponents and keeping them in front more.”

Senior midfielder Alec Nance added the other goal against Parkview, as Sylvan Hills controlled possession throughout against the Patriots and capitalized on longer possessions late in the match.

“They had a lot of feet on defense,” Persson said. “We tried to get behind their defense, but once we saw how many feet they had, we went to more of a passing game. It was a very physical game, and we had all the chances. It mainly happened on their side of the field.”

The wins improved the Bears to 8-12 overall and 3-3 in the 5A Southeast Conference. It also marks wins in four of the last five games for Sylvan Hills going back to their performance in the River City tourney.

“I told the kids the day after that it may have been the best thing to happen for us,” Persson said of the championship game against Maumelle. “It let us see how hard you have to play to beat a good team, and it was good for me as a coach to be able to point out that no matter how good you play, you can’t make mistakes against a good team. It was a good learning experience.”

The Lady Bears team continued their unbeaten run in the 5A Southeast Conference with victories over both Mills and Parkview.

Sylvan Hills hosted North Pulaski last night and will finish up league play at Monticello on Friday.