GHS boys soccer on exciting run to state playoffs

GHS boys soccer on exciting run to state playoffs

A few weeks ago it didn’t seem possible, but the Greenwood Bulldogs varsity boys soccer team is on the cusp of an amazing run into the post-season. It’s not a done deal yet, but their fate is under their full control. Friday night’s road match at Greenbrier will determine their future. “Nothing is guaranteed yet. We could still be bumped out,” cautioned Head Coach Tyler Woods, completing his fifth season at Greenwood and hoping to take his first squad to the playoffs. “The good thing is that we control our own fate. We need to win at Greenbrier to get us in for sure.”

The Panthers are seventh in the conference standings, but defeated Greenwood earlier this season, 2-1. A GHS victory puts the Bulldogs in the playoffs as the #3 seed from the conference, a loss could drop them to fourth or even eliminate them, depending on what happens between Harrison and Siloam Springs, who also play each other Friday night.

A month ago it didn’t appear that the Bulldogs had a chance at postseason play, lagging several points behind the top four league leaders. But a four-game winning streak has them in the drivers’ seat with the chance to seal the deal Friday night at Greenbrier. Along the way they beat Siloam Springs, a perennial soccer power with numerous state titles to their name, something the Bulldogs hadn’t done since 2015.

Starting after spring break, the GHS boys have six wins, four losses, and a tie in 5A West conference play. They’ve posted a league mark of 6-6-1 and are 10-7-2 overall on the season. Teams earn three points for each league victory and one point for a tie, giving Greenwood 19 total points, the same as Harrison, but the Bulldogs beat the Goblins twice this season, giving them the tiebreaker advantage. Mountain Home has 17 points and needs the Bulldogs to lose to have any chance of moving up to fourth place and claiming the last playoff slot. The Bombers play at Alma Friday night and must also win to have any hope.

Returning from their mid-semester break on March 28th, the Bulldogs battled Siloam Springs to a 0-0 tie on the road, ordinarily quite an accomplishment against one of the state’s traditional soccer powers. But while the Panthers are still good, they don’t have the firepower of recent years and will not make the playoffs this season. Greenwood earned one point for the draw and maybe gained a little confidence.

Up next two days later was a home match against Mountain Home, a 2-1 GHS loss. The score was knotted at the half, 1-1, with the Greenwood goal coming off the foot of Ben Pschier. But the Bombers scored late in the second half on a freakish play for the win, despite the Bulldogs controlling more possessions in the contest.

Greenwood opened April with a trip to Alma on the third of the month, a 4-1 road victory for the Bulldogs. Alma scored on a header in the first half, but still trailed 2-1 at the intermission. Two more GHS goals followed in the second half. Steven Duran, Ralph Meeker, his cousin Hudson Meeker, and Ben Pschier all scored for the Bulldogs.

On April 6th the Greenbrier Panthers came to Smith-Robinson Stadium and pulled off the mild upset, beating the Bulldogs, 2-1, a loss Greenwood desperately wants to avenge this Friday night. Greenbrier led 1-0 at the break, then went up 2-0 in the second half before Greenwood’s Bodey Steinfeld booted a laser shot into the net off a free kick, but that was as close as the Bulldogs could get.

The next week, on April 11th, Greenwood hosted the Harrison Goblins in a makeup match postponed earlier in the season. The Goblins are playing their first season at the 5A level after several years as a 4A powerhouse in soccer. But the Bulldogs took care of business, winning 2-0. “That was a huge win for us,” said Coach Woods. “That’s kind of what catapulted us on the little run that we’re on. Steven Duran and Ben Pschier scored and our kids just kind of started figuring some things out and doing some things right more consistently.”

The next two matches were forgettable for the Bulldogs, facing two of the best teams in the conference and state in Russellville and Van Buren. Greenwood lost 7-0 at Russellville and 4-0 at home to the Pointers, seemingly the low part of the season for the Bulldogs, but not so, according to Coach Woods.

“Our kids understand how good Russellville and Van Buren are every year, so they don’t get super down about themselves when we lose to those guys. [Those teams] are just on a different level. Those two have been in the finals the past four or five years,” said the coach.

On April 21st the Bulldogs played another match with Harrison, and once again the GHS boys pitched a shutout against the Goblins, beating them 1-0 just 10 days after their earlier 2-0 win. Those twin victories were huge in giving the Bulldogs the advantage in a potential tie with the Goblins for the playoffs. Hudson Meeker scored the lone goal of the contest in the first half with neither team scoring after the intermission. Harrison had several shots on goal, but the Bulldogs played excellent defense.

Four days later, on the 25th, the Bulldogs traveled to Siloam Springs to take on the Panthers, a team they hadn’t beaten in eight years, and started their current four-game winning streak with a 2-1 victory. “I’m not sure if our guys really expected to beat them,” said Coach Woods. “But we went toe-to-toe with them.” Tucker Wooten scored the first goal for Greenwood in the opening half. Ben Pschier then redirected a ball into the net for the win with about 10 minutes left in the second half after the Panthers had tied the score at 1-1.

The Bulldogs got another goal from Ben Pschier three days later at Mountain Home, the only goal of the match, as it turned out, and it came early in the first half. “We went to Mountain Home knowing that both teams were fighting for their playoff lives,” said Coach Woods. “At that point every game was a playoff game. But it was an evenly matched game, and we were lucky to come out on top.”

Up next was a home match against Alma this past Tuesday, and the Airedales got the first goal before Greenwood came back with two scores for a 2-1 halftime advantage. The teams then traded goals throughout the second half. Alma evened it up at 2-2 before the Bulldogs scored again to go up 3-2. But Alma tied it at 3-3 with 10 minutes left. Then with seven minutes left, Steven Duran crossed it over and fed Hudson Meeker for the game winner, 4-3.

“My heart was just on a rollercoaster that game,” said Woods. “We just played really ugly soccer, and it didn’t feel like a win. But we’re happy to be where we’re at.” The coach also reflected on how far and fast his team has come to put itself in position for a postseason berth. “After the first round-robin [in conference play] we had four points and were in seventh place, and it looked like we didn’t have a chance, really. But we started reeling off some wins and put ourselves in [position] to make it as the three seed or four seed.”

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