Friday, May 04, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Sylvan Hills closes by beating NP

Leader sportswriter

The Sylvan Hills Lady Bears capped off a milestone week with a 3-1 victory over North Pulaski at home on Tuesday.

The Lady Bears (15-4-3, 6-0) were awarded the 5A Southeast Conference championship at the conference meeting in White Hall earlier in the week, and completed their unbeaten league run by downing the Lady Falcons.

“It is extremely special to us,” Lady Bears coach Nate Persson said. “Especially since we’re two years into a rebuilding period. It shows the progress we’ve made. We’ve been extremely competitive in all our games.”

Missing leading scorer Abi Persson was not a problem for the Lady Bears on Tuesday, as sophomore forward Calyn Fulton stepped up in her absence with two goals, while freshman midfielder Shelby Brown added the final goal.

North Pulaski struck first with an early goal to take the initial lead before Sylvan Hills went on a 3-0 unanswered run through the remainder of the contest.

The league championship is a first in program history for the Lady Bears soccer program, and resulted in six players being named to the all-conference team.

Sophomore forwards Abi Persson and Calyn Fulton, junior goalkeeper Naomi Gregory, senior defender Kashima Wright, senior Dori Franco and sophomore Rachel Franco all made the exclusive list of standout players for the 5A Southeast Conference.

Persson was held out of the North Pulaski game after suffering a concussion during a 1-1 tie to Sheridan in non-conference play last Thursday, but she was instrumental in a 5-1 league victory over Mills University Studies earlier in the week when she scored two goals against the Lady Comets. Rachel Franco scored one goal, as did Fulton and Wright.

The Lady Bears will wrap up the regular season with a match against the Mount St. Mary junior-varsity team on Monday, and will face East No. 4 seed Nettleton in the first round of the 5A state tournament at Burns Park Thursday at 2 p.m.

The Sylvan Hills boys let their hair down in a 7-0 blowout over the Falcons on Tuesday. The Bears (9-12, 4-3) took control early on, and finished the game with players in positions they normally would not find themselves in, including a second-half goalkeeping performance by senior forward Jeremiah Persson.

Persson spent the first half setting up teammates for shots on goal before fronting the defensive net in the second half, while a host of Bears got a rare chance to play offense.

Scoring went by committee, as sophomore David Johnson was the only player to score multiple goals with two. Alec Nance, senior Daylon Jones, Kylan Wade and Terrance Allen all scored one goal each.

“It was a fun game,” Bears coach Sam Persson said. “It was senior night, and we had some guys who were really hungry to score. We shuffled the lineup around some and actually had Jeremiah Persson playing goalkeeper in the second half. That let our freshman goalkeeper James Waller get out there and play in an offensive capacity in a game that was already in control.”

The victory marks three straight wins in the 5A Southeast Conference for Sylvan Hills, which had a chance to secure the No. 2 state tournament seed with a victory at Monticello last night. The Bears and Billies will settle the dispute for the two and three seeds while White Hall has clinched the league title outright.

“I hope we’re peaking at the right time,” Persson said. “When we play Monticello, we will have a good idea where we’re at, kind of a final test for us. I’m looking forward to it; I feel like we’re playing our best soccer of the year right now.”