GHS soccer teams battling through tough league schedule

GHS soccer teams battling through tough league schedule

Last Friday’s scheduled conference matches at Greenbrier were cancelled due to the possibility of inclement weather and will be made up on May 3rd. But despite the interruption in their schedule, the GHS Bulldogs and Lady Bulldogs continue to plow through the 5A West in search of a post-season berth in early April.

The 5A West is home to perennial soccer powers Russellville, Siloam Springs, and now Van Buren, and is thought by many to be the toughest soccer division in the state, regardless of classification. Only the top four finishers in the league will qualify for the state tournament.

The GHS boys are 6-4 overall and 3-4 in league play, while the GHS girls are 4-4-1 overall and 2-4-1 in conference play. Both teams return to action next Tuesday at home against Alma before traveling to Russellville next Friday. The regular season wraps up with the match at Greenbrier on May 3rd, followed by the conference tournament starting May 5th.

Bulldogs

After starting their season with a 3-2 mark and 0-2 in conference play, the GHS boys split their final two league matches before spring break, losing 6-1 at Van Buren on March 16th before hosting and beating Vilonia two days later at Smith-Robinson Stadium, 8-3.

In their victory over the Eagles, the Bulldogs scored a pair of first half goals to lead 2-1 at the intermission, but exploded for six second-half goals in the blowout win and their first conference triumph of 2021.

They returned to action at Siloam Springs on March 30th, only to give up three first-half goals to the powerful Panthers in a 4-0 loss. But the ‘Dogs righted the ship with the coming of the new month, winning both of their league matches the first week of April.

Greenwood downed Mountain Home on April Fool’s Day at Smith-Robinson Stadium, winning 2-1. Five days later they won a road match at Alma, shutting out the Airedales 3-0.

In the 2-1 over the Bombers, senior Riley Wann scored a goal on a half volley. Mountain Home then tied it up with 11 minutes remaining before senior Devan Lamb scored his first career goal to win it for the Bulldogs with a minute left. At Alma, the ‘Dogs got two goals from Wann and one from Ralph Meeker, inching closer to the .500 mark in league play at 3-4.

The Bulldogs also got some bad news with the turn of the calendar, losing Guatemalan-born Israel Ajtum, who prematurely departed the team. Though not a foreign exchange student, Ajtum was not expected to reside in Greenwood for more than one semester, according to Head Coach Tyler Woods, who also called Ajtum “an incredible player.” He will be missed.

Coach Woods talked about his team’s performance over the past few weeks and offered a look ahead. “At the halfway point in our season our boys are 6-4 overall and 3-4 in conference. We start the second half of the conference season [Tuesday] against Alma. Right now [we] are sitting in the fifth [in the league standings].

“If our guys can win the games [against the teams] that we have already [beaten], and find a way to beat Greenbrier at their place, it should give us a chance to make the playoffs. [But] that will be easier said than done.

“Staying healthy at this point in the season is very important. Playing games without a starter or two can make a big difference and all the teams in our conference are dealing with it,” said the coach.

“Russellville and Van Buren are both undefeated in conference play, so their games will probably determine who wins our conference. Siloam has lost to both of them. I’m confident that two of those three teams will be playing against each other in the 5A state championship,” predicted Woods.

"Do Your Job" is our motto this year, and as long as our guys keep focused and take care of what we can control, we'll be in a good spot. We have to give ourselves a chance to compete at state by taking care of business and hopefully playing our best when our best is needed.”

Lady Bulldogs

Head Coach Andrew Post and his young GHS girls posted their first conference win of the season in their final match before spring break, then added another league victory last week to improve to 2-4-1 against members of the 5A West. Earlier this season Post characterized his team as “rebuilding” with a lot of potential but lacking experience.

On March 16th the GHS girls lost at Van Buren, 2-0, before hosting and the Lady Eagles of Vilonia two days later. The two squads battled to a scoreless tie at the break, but Greenwood won the second half and the match by a 2-1 margin for their first conference win.

Returning to school after spring break, the Lady Bulldogs faced the Siloam Springs Lady Panthers on the road and suffered a tough 8-0 defeat. But they didn’t let the blowout loss get them down, responding with a pair of nice matches against Mountain Home and Alma the first week of April.

Trailing 1-0 at the intermission, the Lady Bulldogs managed to score a tying goal in the second half to gain a 1-1 tie with Mountain Home on April 1st. Starting this season, overtime shootouts are no longer allowed as a means of breaking ties.

On April 6th the GHS girls hosted the Lady Airedales of Alma and held on for a 2-1 victory. Both teams scored all their goals in the first half and none in the second half.

“We’ve had some hard games in conference play and are currently a better team now than when we first started the season,” offered Coach Post. “We continue to improve, and the addition of [senior] Shea Goodwin has brought a much needed spark to the team. Shea is new to the sport, but her athleticism has proven valuable on the field.  

“Our midfield is [also] much improved from the beginning of the season, led by junior Kayla Rogers, who seems to be the backbone of the unit,” added Post.

“Freshman Abby Gatesman leads all players with eight goals and is having a great freshman campaign. Ava Thomas is settling into her role of center back and helping shore up our back line with sophomore Brookly Wann, senior Kylie Gonzagowski, and spelled by freshman Gracyn Newcity and Shea Goodwin.  

“We are halfway through conference play, but I don't think we have peaked just yet,” said the coach. “We’re hoping to have a better showing with the last seven games and make a push for the playoffs.”

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