Saturday, May 11, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> NLR gets biggest upset in 7A state

Leader sportswriter

Considered the Cinderella story by some, but for the North Little Rock Lady Wildcats, it was vindication of a complete-season turnaround as they knocked off Springdale Har-Ber 1-0 in the first round of the 7A state tournament at Cabot on Thursday.

The magic lasted just one round, as Southside ended NLR’s season with a 4-0 win on Friday, but the first round win proved a lot.

The Lady Wildcats (6-6-1) did not even know whether or not they qualified for state until the final night of 7A Central Conference matches played out on Tuesday night. When it was all settled, they earned the No. 6 and final seed out of the Central league, which pitted them against 7A West No. 3 seed Har-Ber in a game many expected them to lose.

The two teams battled to a scoreless tie through regulation, but the Lady Wildcats finally put themselves into a scoring opportunity early in overtime when they forced the other Wildcats’ defense into an error that put senior Jordan Toler at the corner. Toler’s delivery made contact with Katie Van Pelt and ricocheted into position where Mac Harrington was able to make a play on it. Harrington, who has led the team in corner-kick scores all season, came through once again for North Little Rock in what ultimately became the only score in 100 minutes of play.

“We’ve really been improving a lot,” Lady Wildcats coach Justin Musick said. “We had a lot of close losses that were either by one point or PKs. We were the six seed, but we felt like we were evenly matched, and we were able to come away with the result.”

Har-Ber had its opportunities, but NLR senior goalkeeper Jordan Whisnant kept the goal clear with a number of strong saves. Whisnant, along with fellow seniors Van Pelt, Toler and Harrington, make up the core of the team that struggled early before coming on strong in mid April.

“They’re all seniors,” Musick said. “They’ve all been in President’s Cups, won President’s cups. They have a lot of experience they bring to the team and have been a driving factor for us. They are so good at creating opportunities.”