Friday, May 20, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Tigers beat CHS for crown

Leader sportswriter

FAYETTEVILLE – The Cabot Lady Panthers left all they had on Razorback Field in Friday morning’s Class 7A state championship match against Bentonville, but the Lady Tigers’ defense was too strong and the Bentonville attackers capitalized on enough scoring opportunities to win 3-0.

The championship match was scoreless through the bulk of the first half. Bentonville (20-2-1) maintained possession for the majority of it, and the Lady Tiger defenders didn’t make anything easy on Cabot’s attackers.

Cabot goalkeeper Maggie Martin stayed busy through that stretch, making save after save before Bentonville plugged one into the goal with 12:26 left until halftime. It was scored by junior Lauren Holly inside 10 yards and was set up by a Victoria Mitchell pass from the left side of the field.

The Lady Panthers (20-5) were unable to match the goal, and Bentonville took a 1-0 lead into the break.

Rain before the game and a light drizzle through the first half resulted in a wet and slick field on the grass surface, and the rain picked up at the start of the second half, which led to more slipping and sliding that both teams had to deal with.

“We had some technical issues on the ball throughout the game,” said Cabot coach Kerry Castillo. “A lot of slipping and sliding that kind of went both ways. There was nothing that they did that we didn’t expect. We just had to execute. My hat’s off to them (Bentonville). They played a great game.

“They found the opportunities to score that they needed. They made good with their chances and the opportunities we had to get in behind (the defense) we just didn’t take advantage of, and that’s kind of how the game goes.”

The game stayed 1-0 through the first 30-plus minutes of the second half, but like the first half, Bentonville’s defenders kept Cabot’s offense from getting any good looks at the goal.

With 9:52 to play, Bentonville all but sealed it with a goal by Lady Tiger freshman Abby Stolt. On that scoring play, Holly had a kick that was blocked by Martin, but Stolt was there for the putback, giving BHS a 2-0 lead. Lady Tiger leading scorer Alissa Carlson scored the final goal of the match with 2:27 remaining on another putback.

It wasn’t the ending the Lady Panthers were hoping for, but it was a historic season nonetheless. Before this year, the Cabot girls’ soccer program had never reached the semifinals, and this year’s group of Lady Panthers advanced to the state championship game, and had a lot of fun doing so.

“I’m going to be honest,” Castillo said, “this is the funnest year of coaching that I’ve ever had. This group of girls genuinely love one another. They’re fun to coach. They’re good people, good kids.

“They do a good job in the classroom, and on the field they’re great players. They have a tremendous faith in one another and a tremendous faith in God, and they know that that’s the most important thing in their life.

“We talked about all of the different ways that that kind of led us to be here all together this year and experience this all together. They’re a great group of people and I will miss this team.”