Friday, May 12, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Sylvan Hills upsets Lakeside

Leader sports editor

The Sylvan Hills girls’ soccer team pulled off a minor upset in the first round of the Class 5A state playoffs on Thursday. The Lady Bears grinded their way to a 2-0 lead and then held off a furious late rally to beat Hot Springs Lakeside 2-1 at Valley View High School.

“They were the higher seed,” said Sylvan Hills coach Nate Persson. “They were stronger and faster and more physical than us, but the girls played an outstanding game.”

About 20 minutes into the match, Nakiya Smith placed a perfect pass to Maddie Sheridan that got behind the Lakeside defense. Sheridan put the goal in for a 1-0 Lady Bear lead.

“It was a great goal,” Persson said. “It was an excellent lead- through pass by Nakiya. Maddie followed it right into box and very calmly put it in. And it took a lot to get to that pass. There was a lot of teamwork that went into that goal.”

The second goal came after a penalty kick by Elizabeth Riley. Sylvan Hills missed on three opportunities, but rebounds kept coming off into play until Smith finally put one in. Jade Joiner got the first shot and it was blocked. Riley and then Joiner again each had one blocked before Smith scored for the 2-0 lead.

“We really had them scrambling down there and we just kept at it until we got the goal,” Persson said. “That changed the whole game, and it turned out to be a huge goal.”

Lakeside’s superior athleticism became a factor late in the match, but Sylvan Hills goalkeeper Alexis Knight was an even bigger one.

“Oh, they were dominating us so badly the last 10 minutes,” Persson said of the Lady Rams. “They were just getting shot after shot and Alexi was just making spectacular save after spectacular save. She really did become the hero tonight.”

Knight’s heroics continued to the final seconds. Trailing by one with just 20 seconds left, Lakeside got what appeared to be a near certain scoring opportunity with a shot in front of an empty left side of the night.

But Knight dived, fully stretched, to deflect the ball out of bounds as the final seconds ticked away.

Sylvan Hills (10-8-1) entered the tournament as the No. 3 seed from the 5A-Central Conference. They were scheduled to play 5A-East champion and state tournament host Valley View (19-3-1) at 2 p.m. Friday, but weathered disrupted the original schedule. Look for more details of the Lady Bears tournament run in Wednesday’s edition of The Leader.