Friday, April 26, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot ladies emerging as contenders

Leader sportswriter

Cabot assured itself a shot at the 7A/6A East Conference championship with a 6-0 mercy-ruled shutout over Jonesboro at Panther Stadium on Tuesday. The Lady Panthers (10-3-4, 6-0) will now go into next Tuesday’s league matchup against second-place Searcy (5-1 conf.) with an unbeaten East record and a chance to wrap up the No. 1 state tournament seed.

The Lady Panthers served notice of their capabilities by shutting out the Lady Hurricane, and they also did it with goals from numerous sources on a night when leading scorer Jessica Souza was kept off the scoreboard by Jonesboro.

Jonesboro, traditionally a strong competitor in girls soccer, struggled to get offensive touches, and could not hold possession long enough to put together plays with a repeated series of quick touches at midfield that were quickly intercepted by the Lady Panthers.

“Non-stop effort, continuous from every player,” Cabot coach Kerry Castillo said. “Even substitutions, every player that went on the field was working at their max work rate. They do it for each other.”

The difference in passing ability was a big key in Cabot’s dominance over Jonesboro, as the Lady Panthers seemed to toy with their guest’s defense at times by kicking the ball out and running the same play again, finally attacking on the third or fourth pass, and usually scoring.

Freshman Braxton Reed was the only repeat scorer for Cabot with a pair of first-half goals, while sophomore Devin Patterson added another in the first 40 to give the Lady Panthers a 3-0 lead at the break.

Souza made up for not scoring by putting on a ball-handling clinic against the Jonesboro defense, spinning the ball up and over the defender to get back in front of the coverage.

“That’s one thing I was probably the most proud of,” Castillo said. “How well we worked together as a unit. Man, they passed the ball around great today, one-touch passes. They were very fluent, very creative, flicking the ball over the defender’s heads to run onto it themselves.”

Reed’s first score came in the first five minutes, when the Jonesboro keeper denied Souza on a pair of strikes. The first shot by Reed was also knocked down, but the second effort reached the far post to give the Lady Panthers a 1-0 lead.

Patterson’s score to end the half came on an athletic move following a corner kick by junior Codee Park.

Freshman Sydney Farqu-harson opened the second-half scoring for the Lady Panthers with a 20-yard blast from near right in the seventh minute that easily beat the keeper to make it 4-0. Junior Anna Applegate made it 5-0 in the 23rd minute with a low shot into the left corner that once again left the Lady ’Canes keeper defenseless.

Though the game was no longer in question, the most popular goal of the night for Cabot was the final score when sophomore Keeara Carter beat Jonesboro’s keeper with a direct shot at the start of the 24th minute to set the final margin.

“She’s a sophomore, and she’s just such a lovable kid,” Castillo said. “She finds herself with the ball in front of the goal a lot. Sometimes, it’s just not her day, or the ball bounces badly for her. And so most of the time, her shot is wide or saved. I think most of all, the girls just love her, and love to celebrate with her.”

The Lady Panthers will host Pulaski Academy at home in nonconference play on Friday before hosting the league-title showdown with Searcy on Tuesday.