Lady Bobcats have a year for the record books

Tuesday, May 30, 2017
Berryville coaches and players pose for a photo after this weeks award banquet in honor of the great season the team had.
Charles Chappell / www.PhotoShelter.com/CCImages

Going undefeated and getting a No. 1 seed in the Class 4A state soccer tournament was quite a feat for a team that didn't even qualify for the state tournament a year ago. The Lady Bobcats went on to lose in penalty kicks in the semifinals of the state tournament.

"This group didn't make the state tournament last year," Berryville coach Aaron Hall said. "They were young and for them to improve as much as they did from one year to the next, and we did gain a few freshmen that helped our team tremendously, but the ones that were coming back just got better. They played well together as a team. They liked each other. The more your team likes each other, the more they get along, it makes things so good. Your ceiling is higher. I'm very proud of them."

Going into the season, Hall said he wasn't expecting a run to the state semifinals.

"You want those expectations to be high, but to say they were as high as we reached would be false," Hall said. "We just wanted to make the state tournament and then we just kept winning."

After defeating Danville to start the season, the Lady Bobcats lost a non-conference match to Siloam Springs. After a win at Prairie Grove, the Lady Bobcats defeated Shiloh Christian at home, 3-0. That is when Hall knew the Lady Bobcats had a chance to do something special.

"This is the first time we have ever beaten Shiloh, to my knowledge," Hall said. "There were several years when they were in a classification above us, but they had handled us the first two years they were in this league. Running clock or close to it. They were just better than us."

Even with back-to-back home wins over Dardanelle and Gentry, both teams that made the state tournament, the Lady Bobcats needed to do more to clinch the No. 1 seed.

"We had to beat Eureka Springs to clinch the No. 1 seed and then we go into Huntsville and now it's an undefeated season," Hall said. "It was good because we always had another goal right in front of us. Our kids couldn't take a game off."

After winning its first two games in the state tournament by a combined score of 15-1, the Lady Bobcats faced a tough test in the semifinals against Robinson. Berryville lost in a penalty kick shootout, 4-3.

"It was sad the way it ended," Hall said. "I don't know if we deserved to lose the game. I'm not sure we deserved to win the game. I thought we got more shots on goal, but we made the final four and that's the furthest we have made it here at Berryville so there is a lot to be proud of."

With the great season Berryville had, Hall knows that expectations will be high heading into next season.

"If they improve as much next year as they did from last year to this year, they will have a chance to be back, but it's such a long time between now and then," Hall said. "We are going to work on our schedule a little bit. Try to get a few more friendly games. Maybe go to a tournament and see what we can do."

Amber Veach, Vicky Villatoro, Leslie Tellez, Sara Hale, Mary-Kennedy Jackson, Karleigh Giles, Maryn Jones, Natalia Hernandez and Taylor Swofford were all-conference selections. Nora Waller and Karen Leon were honorable mention all-conference pick. Veach, Villatoro, Jones, Giles and Hernandez were all-state players. Hernandez was an all-state tournament player. Hernandez had three goals going into the state tournament and scored six in three games. The five all-state players are underclassmen.

"For a group of kids who didn't make the state tournament a year ago, to turn around and make the final four the next year, you couldn't be more proud of these kids," Hall said. "They are great kids. I enjoyed going to practice every day. I enjoyed every one of the games. We didn't win all of the games, but we won most of them."

Berryville finished the season 11-2.

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