Tuesday, April 30, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Pitch Panthers tie, ladies fall to PA

Leader sportswriter

It was mixed results for the Cabot soccer teams as the Panthers visited Pulaski Academy for a pair of nonconference matches on Friday. The Lady Panthers found the Lady Bruins tougher than their 7A/6A opponents in a 7-3 loss for only their second loss of the season, while the Panthers fought back from a first-half deficit to tie the Bruins 1-1.

Contrasting styles made for an interesting matchup between the Panthers and Bruins as Pulaski Academy went direct with a counter-attack game based on compact defensive organization and limiting individual mistakes, while Cabot was more possession oriented based on ball retention and creating space.

The Bruins struck first in the opening 40 minutes when Cabot goalkeeper Jack Whisker came out to collect a ball and allowed it to get past him. Pulaski Academy was there with a forward to push the ball into the empty net to make it 1-0.

The Panthers created chances in the first half and led in time of possession, but were not able to score until the second half. Their possession game continued to wear down Pulaski Academy in the second half, making the Bruins’ sporadic attacks less frequent.

“I thought the first half they implemented their strategy better than we did,” Panthers coach Steve Porter said. “Not only because they were able to take advantage of a poor goalkeeping error, but because they did a good job of making play predictable. The second half saw us improve in our play - switch the ball with greater speed and frequency, and as a result fatigue began to set in for PA. By the end of the game their players could barely run anymore. Our finishing once again prevented us from earning the win, but our overall play in the second half was excellent.”

Cabot finally scored on a possession that started deep in its own territory and culminated with an interchange that put senior forward Daniel Silva on goal with a one-on-one matchup against Pulaski Academy’s goalkeeper. Silva won the battle with a low, driving blast into the net that tied the game.

“I thought it was a really interesting game in terms of contrasting styles,” Porter said. “We were hoping to keep the ball well, spread the field and wear them down. They were hoping to stay compact, play good defense and counter attack at speed. Each team’s style plays into the other ones, and it became a very interesting tactical battle.

“ They were happy for us to have the ball and attempt to take advantage of our wide spacing and any mistakes we made by counter attacking quickly; while we were happy to keep the ball and make them chase defensively, hoping to take advantage of a lapse in concentration or plain tiredness on their part.”

The Panthers and Lady Panthers wrapped up 7A/6A East Conference play last night as host to Searcy with a girls’ matchup to decide the league champion outright while the Panthers looked to upset the unbeaten Lions, who wrapped up the No. 1 seed last week.