Bulldogs just miss postseason berth as 2022 soccer season ends; Lady Bulldogs still making progress

Bulldogs just miss postseason berth as 2022 soccer season ends; Lady Bulldogs still making progress

While both GHS soccer teams will miss out on the state tournament again this spring, head coaches Tyler Woods and Andrew Post feel they have plenty to build on heading into next season. Greenwood plays in perhaps the toughest soccer conference in the state, regardless of classification, boasting numerous state champions over the past several years.

This postseason the girls’ side of the 5A West is represented by Siloam Springs, Russellville, Greenbrier, and Van Buren. On the boys’ side the postseason lineup features the same four schools in slightly different order, with Russellville on top and the defending state champion Van Buren Pointers in third place. Siloam Springs is second and Greenbrier fourth.

The 2022 regular season wrapped up last Friday evening at Smith-Robinson Stadium with Greenwood hosting Greenbrier for a mixed doubleheader. The Lady Bulldogs fell 3-1 to the Lady Panthers in the opener, while the GHS boys tied Greenbrier, 2-2, cementing the Panthers as the fourth seed from the 5A West. Had the GHS boys won that match they would have been tied with Greenbrier with a total of 21 points on the season. However, the Bulldogs entered the match needing to win by at least two points to earn the tiebreaker over the Panthers.

Teams earn three points for each win and one point for each tie. The Panthers finished 7-6-1 on the season and the Bulldogs finished 5-5-4, or three points behind Greenbrier (22-19). But in the weeks prior to last Friday’s showdown, the GHS boys could have enhanced their position to make the playoffs by playing better against other conference opponents, specifically Siloam Springs and Alma, although they did get an unexpected boost when Van Buren forfeited its match to Greenwood.

Bulldogs

Van Buren: Greenwood’s ninth conference game of the season was a strange one. On the scoreboard the Bulldogs were dominated by the defending state champs, 7-1. Junior Ben Pschier did score his first goal of the season for Greenwood, a pleasant preview of things to come for the junior. Otherwise, the ‘Dogs didn’t play that well against the reigning champs.

But things got weird in the second half when the Van Buren head coach got into it with one of the officials and was ultimately tossed from the match. To make matters worse, the coach refused to leave the field and caused his team to forfeit the match to the Bulldogs. “There were a lot of fireworks happening,” recalled Coach Woods. “We got a forfeit because their coach got ejected and did not leave the playing field in time, so the refs abandoned the game with 6½ minutes left. We were fortunate to get three points out of it that helped us stay in the playoff race.”

Despite the strange circumstances of their match with Greenwood, the Pointers are the defending 5A state champions and have an excellent chance to repeat this season. According to Coach Woods, “If I had to guess, I would guess it’s going to be Russellville against Van Buren in the championship game when it’s all said and done. But you never know.”

Vilonia: Three days later on April 22nd it was senior night, and the Bulldogs honored six seniors, including Jabin Huff, Trey Merreighn, Cole Meyers, Ben Moy, Hunter Kirkes, and senior team manager Hayden Leonard, who also got to play the opening minutes of the match as Coach Woods started all of his seniors against the Eagles. But things didn’t go well early for the ‘Dogs.

Greenwood gave up an early goal and trailed 3-1 at half, only to come back and win 4-3. The GHS goal scorers included freshman Hudson Meeker, junior Steven Duran, and Ben Pschier (2). “I started all our seniors, including our senior manager, Hayden Leonard. We were only going to do that for four or five minutes, but Vilonia came out and scored early.

“But it was awesome to see them battle back for [our] seniors,” said Coach Woods. “The guys showed a lot of heart. I’m really going to miss this group of seniors. They paved their own path and left their mark on Greenwood [soccer]. I’m proud of them and I know they will all go on to be great employees, citizens, husbands, and fathers.”

Siloam Springs: On April 26th the GHS boys lost 4-0 to the Panthers, who took the Bulldogs out of the match early by scoring all four of their goals in the first half. “I give them all the credit,” said Woods of the Panthers, who finished second in the league standings, despite some offensive woes during the season.

“For some reason it seemed like our legs started dying in the second half of the season,” noted the coach. “We just weren’t as fresh. Maybe we didn’t have the depth or the stamina we needed to have. We gave up some goals we shouldn’t have. Siloam Springs has a little wider field, and they have more depth than us, and they played hard against us.”

Mountain Home: Three days later the GHS boys hosted the Bombers and posted a come-from-behind 3-2 victory, their third win in their last four matches, including the forfeit by Van Buren. When describing this match, Coach Woods struggled to find the right superlatives. “What a [game]. It was awesome. This was probably our sweetest game of the year. Our overall [best], hardworking, come-from-behind, gut-wrenching game. It took every player. When we got down 2-1 we actually took it up a notch and started playing harder. I was so proud of their resilience.  It took a lot of heart and hustle.

“These boys left it all out on the field tonight in a big conference battle against Mountain Home,” posted Coach Woods on the team’s Facebook page. “Greenwood battled from behind in the second half and Ralph Meeker scored the game winner to make it 3-2. It was a great win.” Besides Meeker’s winning shot, Ben Pschier (2) added two earlier goals.

U14 team: On April 30th a group of future Bulldogs won two abbreviated matches against Alma and Prairie Grove. Greenwood’s 14-and-under squad battled back from two goals down to beat Alma 3-2 and were down 1-0 to Prairie Grove before rallying for a 2-1 victory. “The future of GHS [soccer] is looking good!” read the Facebook post.

“It’s been awesome to watch those guys grow,” said Woods. “Austin Harvey is a former Bulldog who played for Coach [Chris] Young, and he coaches them and has a son on the team. He’s done an awesome job with them and had a lot of fun. I think it’s going to help our [varsity] program a lot.”

Alma: Greenwood’s May 3rd trip to Alma was disappointing to say the least. Not because the Bulldogs lost the match, but because they didn’t win it and claim the three points in the standings they so desperately needed. The Airedales played well, and the 80-minute match ended in a 1-1 tie. The contest was scoreless at the half.

Greenwood’s only goal came on a penalty kick by Steven Duran. The game was scoreless at the half and Alma punched in its only goal with about 12 minutes left to deny the Bulldogs their much-needed prize.

“They looked like a totally different team the second time we played them,” said Woods of the Airedales. “They played us much harder, a lot more physical, and they were winning more balls. It was a hard-fought game for both teams. I give credit to Alma. They played us really tough. In the locker-room we tried to do the math to see if we still had a chance to make the playoffs, and we did. We just had to beat Greenbrier by two points.”

Greenbrier: “Well, that’s a wrap on the 2022 season,” read the post on the team’s Facebook page after the Bulldogs hosted the Panthers last Friday night. Greenwood trailed 2-1 at the intermission before tying the score in the second half. Ben Pschier scored both goals for Greenwood in the 2-2 tie.

“If we had beaten Greenbrier by two goals, we would have been playing on Thursday this week in the state playoffs,” said Coach Woods earlier this week. “It was close between us and Greenbrier.” In their first meeting the Bulldogs lost at Greenbrier, 2-1, and there was an issue with the clock management in that match, allowing the Panthers to score the winning goal with just seconds left to play. A tie in that match would also have altered the playoff scenario at the end of the season for both teams. “That would have made a difference, I think,” said Woods.

Looking ahead: “I think we will be just as good if not better next year,” offered the coach when assessing his returning players for the 2023 season. “We lose two defenders, [seniors] Cole Meyers and Ben Moy, two of our captains. But I really think we can develop some kids to play defense, but it’s hard to teach kids how to score.” The Bulldogs finished this season with a 6-8-6 overall record and 5-5-4 in conference play.

“But we are returning our entire offense, including Ben Pschier, who played striker for about six games this year and scored seven goals with three assists. Ralph Meeker had five goals and two assists, and Steven Duran had four goals and five assists,” referring to his top three scorers, all of which are returning next season.

“There’s no reason we can’t be just as good if not better next year,” repeated the coach. “We’re excited to see how things pan out. Hopefully, some of the freshman playing on our U14 team will help us. We’ll also have summer league again this year, playing one game a week, and we have tryouts next week, so I’ll know [more] about the new guys [then]. We’re excited for the future. I’m hoping that next year we can break through.”

Lady Bulldogs

Van Buren: On April 19th the GHS girls traveled to Van Buren and suffered a 2-0 conference loss, unable to solve the Lady Pointers’ defense. But head coach Andrew Post was pleased with his team’s effort and signs of continued improvement, although the Lady Bulldogs had won their earlier home match against Van Buren, 1-0, back on March 5th.

“We improved greatly from our first match with them, but couldn't seem to get the ball in the net despite having a few really good chances,” said Coach Post. “Ultimately, we made a couple errors on defense and that cost us a couple goals.”

Vilonia: On April 22nd the Lady Bulldogs hosted the Lady Eagles of Vilonia on senior night. The GHS girls had five seniors this season, including Eden Adams, Molly Denison, Chaise Hanna, Kayla Rogers, and Bree Steinfeldt. They were honored prior to the match, along with their family members.

On the turf of Smith-Robinson Stadium the Lady Bulldogs dominated that night, winning 4-0. They led 1-0 at the intermission before adding three goals in the second half, while continuing to play solid defense, maintaining the shutout.

“The girls played a great game,” said Post. “They created several opportunities to score and put four balls in the net.  Defensively, we shut down the other team. I don't think we gave them one shot on goal.” Greenwood’s goals were scored by freshman Ally Thomas, junior Madelyn Wilkinson, and sophomore Abby Gatesman.

Siloam Springs: Four days later Coach Post took his team north to Siloam Springs to face the first-place Lady Panthers, and the outcome wasn’t pretty. The GHS defense gave up three first half goals and two more after the break for a 5-0 loss. It was the fourth shutout loss in their last five matches and their sixth overall on the season.

“It was not a great showing for this away game,” said the coach. “We made numerous mistakes on defense and allowed way too many opportunities for Siloam Springs to score. [They] looked every bit to be a state champion contender,” he said of the Lady Panthers.

Mountain Home: On April 29th the Lady Bulldogs righted their ship and turned in a nice performance against the Lady Bombers, earning a 1-1 tie. Senior Bree Steinfeldt scored Greenwood’s lone goal, but the team failed to cash in on other scoring chances, allowing the Lady Bombers to tie the match with a cheap and questionable goal.

“We actually played very well,” said Post. “We had about four really good opportunities to score, but could only convert one. Mountain Home had one good chance to score and was awarded a goal, but the ball didn't cross the goal line after we reviewed the game film. In the end, we did not capitalize on a penalty kick and other opportunities to win the game.”

Alma: The GHS girls began May by traveling to Crawford County to face the Lady Airedales on the first Tuesday of the month, notching a 2-0 shutout victory, their fourth and final win of the season. After a scoreless first half, the Lady Bulldogs got a pair of second half goals from Ally Thomas and Madelyn Wilkinson.

“We dominated this game against Alma,” boasted the coach. “We could have scored more than just two goals, but had difficulty getting the ball in the back of the net. We controlled most of the game, giving up just one or two [scoring] opportunities for Alma. We shut down their best player and stuck to the game plan well.”

Greenbrier: Last Friday, May 6th, the Lady Bulldogs closed out the 2022 season at home with a 3-1 loss to the Lady Panthers. Promising freshman Ava Whitaker scored Greenwood’s lone goal in the first half and the score was tied 1-1 at the half before Greenbrier added a pair of second half goals for the win. The Greenwood girls finished their season at 4-10-5 overall and 3-8-3 in 5A West conference play.

“We played a relatively good game against Greenbrier,” said Coach Post. “We gave up a silly early goal, but came back to tie the game on a high crossed ball that Ava Whitaker finished in the net. In the second half we struggled [on defense], giving up way too many shots on goal. Greenbrier took the lead in the first 15 minutes of the second half, then later scored on a deflection off one of our players for the 3-1 win.”

Looking ahead: “Overall this was a season where [several] young players [got] a lot of playing time and experience,” offered the coach. “We lose four seniors next season, which equates to three starters. We also lose our exchange student, Claudia Inzerillo, who gave us minutes at forward.

“We have young talent coming up next year and will add [senior-to-be] Lexi Roots, who will be eligible to play varsity. Next year we hope to be a stronger, more experienced team. The future's looking bright,” said Post optimistically. The coach just completed his ninth season at the helm of the Lady Bulldogs, including the aborted Covid-19 season of 2020.

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