Springdale High locked up its second straight 6A-West title with a 4-0 win against Fayetteville last Friday, but the memory of an earlier-than-expected exit from last year's state tournament still loomed over the team after the match.
"It wasn't really a celebratory mood," Bulldogs coach D.J. Beeler said. "We were happy and pleased with what we had done, but there's a lot of people on this team that won a conference championship last year, and it didn't end up how we wanted it to."
Fort Smith Northside^9-3
Little Rock Catholic^9-3
Fort Smith Southside^4-8
North Little Rock^3-9
Little Rock Central^0-12
Mt. St. Mary^9-3
North Little Rock^4-8
Little Rock Central^3-9
Fort Smith Northside^3-9
Fort Smith Southside^2-10
North Little Rock vs Bryant.
Fort Smith Southside vs Little Rock Central
Cabot vs Fort Smith Northside
Conway vs Little Rock Catholic
Springdale vs Bentonville
Bentonville West vs Van Buren
Fayetteville vs Rogers Heritage
Springdale Har-Ber vs Rogers
Springdale's semifinal loss to Fort Smith Northside has served as a constant reminder as to what the team has been playing toward this year -- a shot at the state title.
That goal has never wavered for Beeler and the Bulldogs, but now they want to see if they can finish undefeated in conference play heading into the last week of the regular season. With just two matches left, Beeler could not think of a "better way to build confidence and momentum going into the state tournament" than to win out, he said.
The Bulldogs have mowed over conference opponents so far this season, winning 10 of 12 matches by two or more goals, but they will be tested by Bentonville and Van Buren to close out the season. Both teams are in top half of the 6A-West, and Van Buren has been the only team to score more than one goal against Springdale.
Beeler knows his team has their work cut out for them against two good teams, but he's confident in his team's ability to score, especially with players like Danny Maldonado, who's stepped up his match recently, he said.
"Maldonado has been big for us," Beeler said. "He's been scoring a lot of goals lately. He's been very versatile as well. We've been able to plug him into different positions if we feel like we need him there, and he's performed well."
Maldonado scored twice against Fayetteville for a match-high while Jose Vega and Nelson Barroso added one each. Vega also recorded a goal against Rogers last week to add to his team-leading number this season. Irvin Sotero also scored against the Mounties.
Springdale will travel to Bentonville to play the Tigers at 7:30 p.m. today with the girls' match set first at 5:30 p.m. The Bulldogs will then end the regular season at home against Van Buren at 5:30 p.m. Friday before the girls play the late match.
Grizzlies looking to lock down top seed
Defending state champion Northside enters the last week of the season looking to lock up the No. 2 seed in the 6A-Central and secure a first-round bye in the state tournament. The Grizzlies, who are tied with Little Rock Catholic for the second spot, have taken eight of their last nine matches and are on a four-match winning streak after beating Conway, 2-1, and North Little Rock, 4-0, last week.
Christian Chavez scored twice against North Little Rock while Luis Paredes and Jarvin Nieto each had a goal in the win.
Northside coach Mauricio Maciel credits those three players for the team's turnaround from the beginning of the season when Northside dropped two of its first three conference matches. Nieto, specifically, has been a major contributor on both sides of the field as a midfielder for the Grizzlies, who have outscored opponents 14-4 during their winning streak. Nieto doesn't score often, but when he does, they're key goals, Maciel said.
"He had a little bit of a slow start, but he's starting to pick it up and feel a little bit more comfortable on the field," Maciel said. "He's been key and has given us a little bit more depth."
Maciel thinks his players have stopped giving up "silly fouls" outside the box and have done better on defense by closing gaps that teams would exploit earlier in the season too, which has contributed to defending state champs' recent success.
Northside can focus on attacking opponents on offensive now that the team has fixed its issues on defense.
"We're really not a team that likes to sit back and play defensively. We just need to continue to play offensive soccer, which is the key to our team," Maciel said.
Northside was scheduled to play Cabot on Monday after the match got moved up because of the threat of weather today, but its match against crosstown rival Fort Smith Southside to close the regular season is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Friday.
Win a momentum boost for Tigers
The Lady Tigers picked up a big win against the No. 1 team in the 6A-West, beating Rogers, 3-2, last Friday. The win gave the Mounties their first conference loss of the season and evened up the series between the two teams after Bentonville lost to Rogers in a shootout earlier in the year.
Bentonville coach Kris Henry knew her team wanted the chance to redeem themselves against Rogers after they played anxious the first time around, she said.
"Nobody likes to lose in penalty kicks ever, so it was important for them to get the result that they did," Henry said.
Megan Gotwalt scored the first goal for Bentonville to even up the score at one in the first half, and Abby Stolt scored the go-ahead goal with six minutes left in the match. Lauren Parker added another goal with three minutes later, which proved to be the most crucial goal for the team after Rogers scored in the final minute to cut into Bentonville's lead.
Parker's goal capped off a strong performance from the freshman, who played in her first match back after missing time with a concussion.
"That was big for her," Henry said. "She knew she would have to come in and make a difference. She did a great job of stepping up and stepping in and getting right back in it."
The team had to play without two starters in Ginger Olson, who rolled her ankle against Fayetteville a match before, and the team's leading scorer, Angelina Diaz, who was out of town for a family commitment. Henry was a bit a concerned with her team's depth going into the match, but Parker played better than Henry had anticipated, she said.
Bentonville still remains the No. 2 team in the conference, despite splitting the season series with Rogers, because the Tigers had to forfeit its first win against Springdale Har-Ber, a match that ended 5-0, for having an ineligible player.
The forfeit could come back to haunt Bentonville, depending on how the week plays out, as it could be the difference between the Tigers finishing first or second in the 6A-West. Henry would have rather been the No. 1 seed so the team could avoid playing the top team from the 6A-Central, but she's already preparing for the state tournament and the possible matchups her team might have, she said.
Bentonville will play Springdale at 5:30 p.m. today with the boys' match coming after that. The Lady Tigers will then travel to Centerton to face crosstown rival Bentonville West at 7:30 p.m. Friday. The boys will play before the girls.
Wildcats surging at the right time
Springdale Har-Ber coach Fabrizio Campagnola has led the Lady Wildcats to a second-half surge in conference play this year after the team has gone on a four-match winning streak ahead of the last week of the regular season.
The Lady Wildcats are tied for the third-best record in the 6A-West, which is a marked improvement for a team that lost five of its first conference matches. Campagnola credits his team's recent success to some changes he's made to the team's defensive formation to address certain weaknesses on the field.
"We decided we needed to protect our defense a little bit better, and at the same time, be better when we have a chance to counterattack," Campagnola said.
While Har-Ber still plays a 4-4-2, how the team shapes itself on the field has changed to allow for more dynamic coverage across the field with a more compacted defense, Campagnola said. The change seems to be working for Har-Ber, which has not allowed a goal during the win streak.
One of the biggest impacts of this scheme change has been the emergence of Gisselle Estrada as a more serious scoring threat. The new defense has freed Estrada to focus more on creating scoring opportunities when before she was forced to chase or fight for the ball too much, Campagnola said.
Estrada, who's the team leading scorer, notched a hat trick in the team's most recent match against Van Buren, which it won 6-0. Kania Starks had two goals and Kearstin Crumby scored the last one for the Lady Wildcats.
The return of Desire Perez, who has been battling injuries all year has been a key to the team's strong performance as they push for that third-place finish, which is the focus right now for Har-Ber.
"Finishing No. 3 would be amazing for how we started the season," Campagnola said.
Har-Ber will travel to Rogers to play the Mounties at 5:30 p.m. today with the boys' match to follow. The team will then close out the season against Fayetteville at 7:30 p.m. Friday with the boys scheduled to play first at 5:30 p.m.
Sports on 04/30/2019
Print Headline: PREP SOCCER REPORT