Tuesday, May 16, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Panthers shut out Fayetteville, earn title rematch

Leader sports editor

FORT SMITH – A long wait to get back to the Class 7A state championship game is finally over for the Cabot girls’ soccer team. The Lady Panthers played tremendous defense and defeated Fayetteville 2-0 in the semifinals at Southside High School on Saturday.

That has earned the team a rematch with Bentonville (21-3) in the state championship game at 4 p.m. Saturday at the University of Arkansas. The Lady Tigers are the defending state champions after beating Cabot 3-0 in last year’s title match.

On Saturday, Cabot scored once very early and once very late. In just the ninth minute of the game, three players combined to cover almost the entire length of the field to set up the lead-taking goal.

Cabot senior Alexis Dang took control from a Fayetteville player well into the Lady Bulldogs’ offensive side of the field. She made a long pass to senior Hadley Dickinson at midfield.

She dribbled by one defender and passed to junior Tristyn Edgar several yards up ahead. Edgar ran right by one defender to create a one-on-one with goalkeeper Gracie Cape.

The University of Tulsa signee was a mismatch for Cape, and scored easily with 30:51 left in the first half.

It became mostly a defensive struggle the rest of the way, but the Lady Panthers created many more opportunities and more shots and shots on goal.

The Lady Panthers (23-2) had 12 shots on goal, to just four for Fayetteville (17-5-1). One came dangerously close to tying the game with about 20 minutes to go, but it bounced off the crossbar and the Lady Panther defender Joelle Long was able to clear it out.

Just a couple minutes later, Cabotsophomore Gracen Turner weaved through several defenders and got open for a one-on-one shot, but barely missed wide.

Freshman Janessa Aguirre scored the Lady Panthers’ final goal with about four minutes to go.

She also took a pass from Dickinson in the middle of the field, and beat a defender to set the final margin.

“Fayetteville is an extraordinarily difficult team to break down,” said Cabot coach Kerry Castillo. “They’re solid fundamentally and they’re very physical. But we have some great players, too. And I know they’re looking forward to getting another shot at Bentonville.”

Bentonville and Cabot both went 14-0 in their respective conferences. Saturday’s championship game will be the first meeting between the two teams this season.

The Lady Tigers beat Fort Smith Southside 5-0 in the quarterfinals, and then beat Springdale-Har-Ber 1-0 to get to the championship game.