Tuesday, May 09, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers complete perfection

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Lady Panthers completed a clean sweep of the 7A-Central Conference last Friday with a 7-0 demolition of North Little Rock, and will carry the No. 1 seed into the Class 7A state playoffs.

Those playoffs begin on Thursday, but the Cabot girls get a bye, and will not play until 10 a.m. Friday against the first-round winner between Rogers and Bryant.

The Lady Panthers have been on an impressive run towards the end of the season. They have outscored their last two opponents 14-1, and even their 3-2 win over Bryant three matches ago was impressive.

Head coach Kerry Castillo is encouraged by how his squad is playing heading into the state playoffs.

“Even in the game against Bryant, the score line wasn’t really indicative of the game,” Castillo said. “We created so many chances in the last few minutes. We hit the cross bar with one, shot one into the goalkeeper who was laying on the ground. We blew a few, but we created so many we finally put a couple more in late to get that one. The last two opponents haven’t been that strong, but we did what we should’ve done.”

Against North Little Rock, junior Tristyn Edgar got her second hat trick in as many games. Freshman Kiley Dulaney added two goals and an assist. Sophomore Tatum Moore had a goal and an assist, and senior Hadley Dickinson assisted three goals while scoring another.

“One thing I’ve noticed about our stats recently is that most of our goals have been assisted,” Castillo said. “Early on we relied a lot on individual efforts because we have some great players. Recently we’ve been working as a team and those goals have been created.”

Better rhythm between midfielders and forwards has been a big key to the Lady Panthers’ success. It’s one of the few things the head Panther thought needed to improve by this point in the season.

“I think defensively we’re solid, and the other thing is our midfielders and attacking forwards are finding one another,” Castillo said. “The forwards are getting more involved in the midfield and helping us pull apart defenses. There are a couple of instances I can recall when we put together four, five, six passes on our way to getting behind the other team.”

Making those improvements and seeing the results on the field is what every coach wants to see happen as the postseason approaches. The Lady Panthers seem to be peaking at the right time.

“I’ve been waiting for this moment,” Castillo said. “I’ve been waiting for us to peak. Another thing is, the girls are anxious to play it. The closer the playoffs have gotten, the more focused they seemed to become. With such a big group of seniors, you always worry they’ll have other things to occupy them. That has not been the case. These girls are focused.”