Saturday, May 11, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Panther ladies defeat Rogers

Leader sportswriter

Overcoming the imposing physicality of Rogers was only part of the process for Cabot in the opening round of the 7A state soccer tournament as the Lady Panthers secured a single goal to down the Lady Mounties 1-0 at Panther Stadium on Thursday.

Rogers had no shortage of big girls who were not afraid to mix it up, resulting in a number of Lady Panther players finding the turf throughout the match. The ball stayed near midfield for most of the opening half and through 15 minutes of the second half until Cabot was able to earn a corner kick. Junior Codee Park did the honors from the corner, and found sophomore Devin Patterson, who converted with a brilliant header into the right side out of reach for the Mountaineer goalkeeper.

“We came out and we knew going into the game how physical and athletic they would be,” Cabot coach Kerry Castillo said. “I think a lot of the fouls that occurred were more their girls not intentionally fouling, but just making a very athletic move that was hard to stop. They were big and strong and fast. We tried to play quickly and keep the ball moving.”

The second half appeared to be even less eventful than the first 40 minutes until the Lady Panthers finally put together a drive that pulled the Rogers defense out and forced them into kicking the ball out over the end line to give Cabot the first corner kick of the game.

“We’ve been dangerous on corner kicks all year,” Castillo said. “At halftime, I told the girls we need to put the ball in dangerous areas where their players in the back have to be soccer players and be technical. Right there where they put it out over the end line gave us a chance, and Devin Patterson, she’s a great player. She has a knack for getting lost on corner kicks, and they lost her.”

Cabot found itself significantly outsized in the midfield, particularly in the case of petite freshman centerback Kristen Oitker, who was no worse for the wear after the game despite taking some hard knocks.

“Bless her heart, she’s little bitty,” Castillo said. “And she gets tossed around a lot. But, it won us a free kick a couple of times inside of our own area. She did a great job of keeping her player in front of her.”

Castillo also noted the strong play of midfielders Maddie Rice, Tabitha Owens and Braxton Reed.

One normal standout who made limited impact for Cabot was junior Jessica Souza, but that was due to a Rogers defensive scheme devised to keep multiple defenders on her at all times.

Souza broke free for a couple of chances early in the first half, but spent the rest of the time fighting off as many as three defenders the rest of the way.

“We talked about it at halftime,” Castillo said. “I told her to get ready, that she was about to have two or three people on her, and to stay mobile. I’ll tell you what it did, by her moving, we were able to play other players behind them more easily.”

The Lady Panthers faced 7A West No. 2 seed Bryant in the quarterfinal round Friday. Look for details of the rest of the tournament in Wednesday’s edition of The Leader.