Wednesday, April 24, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Bears second in River City Rivalry

Leader sportswriter

The River City Rivalry tournament was set up as a small yet competitive tournament, and with three of the four teams in the girls bracket finishing 2-1 through two days of round-robin play, it lived up to its name with Maumelle claiming the championship on a points tiebreaker.

Sylvan Hills entered the tournament as host and defending champions, but a 5-0 loss to the Lady Hornets in the late Friday game was enough of a setback that left the Lady Bears a point shy when everything was tallied. The tournament started out on a strong note for Sylvan Hills with a 2-0 shutout win over a tough Batesville team on Friday afternoon, and the Lady Bears closed out tournament play with a 3-0 victory over Mills University Studies. Things became complicated when Batesville downed Maumelle 2-1 on Saturday, but the Lady Hornets scored the most points of anyone through three games to hold the tiebreaker, with Sylvan Hills claiming second and Batesville taking a close third.

“It was a very good weekend,” Lady Bears coach Nate Persson said. “I thought we played outstanding, even in the 5-0 loss we had to Maumelle, we still had some great individual efforts and as a team, we also played well. I told them it was the best I’ve ever felt after taking a 5-0 thrashing.”

The original format called for the tournament to begin on Thursday evening, but stormy weather forced the schedule to be changed to a two-day event, with all teams playing two 60-minute games on Friday before switching back to traditional 80-minute games for Saturday.

The Lady Bears came up short on repeating as tournament champs, but swept the individual honors as junior forward Abi Persson was voted outstanding player of the tournament and senior Naomi Gregory was selected by the coaches as outstanding goalkeeper. Michaela Pinegar and Caylyn Fulton were selected to the all-tournament team.

Persson and Fulton each scored in the opener against Batesville, while Shelby Brown led the defensive charge in the first half. Prior personal commitments took Brown off the field for the second half, forcing coach Persson to adjust defensively.

“We put a lot of effort into that game,” Persson said. “There’s no doubt we were tired after that one. We had to keep our starters in most of that game.”

The Lady Hornets focused much of their defensive efforts against Abi Persson in the second game and found ways to keep the junior standout from scoring, primarily by defending in numbers.

“It was really a tale of who played the toughest,” Persson said. “One thing that really juiced them up was that they know Abi from club soccer. They did everything they could to clog her, they had five deep defending against her.”

The Lady Bears recovered enough by Saturday morning to end the tournament on a winning note with a 3-0 shutout over Mills. Abi Persson scored two goals while Fulton added the other goal, as Sylvan Hills used its bench to get through the match.