Friday, March 15, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> SH ladies spoil NP’s first game of season

By JASON KING
Leader sportswriter

The 5A Central Conference opener also served as the season opener for the North Pulaski Lady Falcons on Tuesday against local rival Sylvan Hills, and the Lady Bears put their experience to work in a 5-1 victory at Bill Blackwood Field.

The Lady Bears (3-1, 1-0) scored two early goals with breakaways by junior forward Abi Persson, while Anna Houston answered a goal by North Pulaski senior Taylor Hodge midway through the first half.

“Early on, I asked the girls to hold the defense the best they could,” Sylvan Hills coach Nate Persson said. “We usually try to keep the defense intact, because they are not as experienced as we’ve had in the past. Abi missed a couple of early opportunities. We needed her to score so we could relax, and she did.”

Persson added two more goals late in the first half, one on a straight-ahead breakaway from close range, and the other on a long free kick over 30 yards out from the right side.

The game went scoreless in the second half, as Persson dropped back and played more of a coaching role on the field in an effort to give some of the Lady Bears’ less-experienced players a chance at running the offense.

Sylvan Hills senior Jalmedal Byrd managed to break away twice late in the second half, but North Pulaski’s defense prevented her from scoring. Lady Falcon senior Laura Spell and sophomore Lindsay Spell put their speed to good use in the second half to disrupt the training session.

“We were at a disadvantage because No. 3 on their team, she’s too quick for us,” Persson said. “It was difficult. They have a good enough defense, and she is so super quick that our forwards aren’t quick enough. We didn’t do as well as we had hoped to do on that.

“But I’m overall pleased, because it’s always good when they get experience.”

After letting Houston slip through for the early North Pulaski goal, Lady Bears senior goalkeeper Naomi Gregory made a number of good saves through the remainder of the first half. Gregory saw limited time in the second half to make way for junior goalkeeper Courtney BoutteƩ.

“She’s our hope for next year,” Persson said. “This is her first time ever to play. We’re hoping to develop her for next year, because Naomi will be big shoes to fill. We’re also developing her as a forward, because she’s also a basketball player, and she has very good speed.”

The Lady Bears lost their first game of the season the day before at Batesville as the Lady Pioneers won a hard-fought 1-0 battle. Coach Persson said the absence of junior forward Caylyn Fulton was a big reason for the loss. Fulton suffered a knee injury during the late stages of basketball season, but was expected to return for Thursday’s conference match against Jacksonville.

“That’s huge for us,” Persson said. “She really makes a difference for us.”