El Dorado used the 90 degree heat to its advantage Friday as the Lady Wildcats outlasted Greenbrier 3-0 to advance in the 5A State Girls Soccer Tournament at the EHS Soccer Complex. El Dorado improved to 15-1 on the season and will face Searcy Saturday at 2 p.m. in the semifinals.
Neither Coach Neville Matthews nor his troops unleashed a lot of emotion when the final horn sounded on Friday. The heat of the day was draining plus, there’s more work to be done.
“As a team overall we did pretty good. We all stepped up and pulled each other up, covered for each other. I think overall we played well as a team. Everyone handled their business and did their job,” said Matthews. “We’ve got a lot of work to do. It gets harder from here on out. We’ll be tested.”
The Lady Panthers surely left a few scars in a physical, defensive-minded struggle. Greenbrier’s starting goalkeeper went down with a shoulder injury less than two minutes into the game. Her backup, freshman Meredith Murray, proved more than capable, especially in the opening half.
The Lady Wildcats controlled the midfield and were able to take shots at the goal. But, none found the target until the 1:10 mark of the first half when Caroline Meadows dribbled one through the grasp of Murray with the ball trickling into the net.
The second half saw Greenbrier turn more aggressive offensively. El Dorado’s defense was stout in front of Catelyn Connor, who came out of net several times but wasn’t threatened heavily.
“They settled down,” Matthews said of his defense. “We’ve got a couple little things we have to do as far as chemistry but they’re getting there. That’s one of my Achilles Heel’s from last year. I lost a lot of my defenders last year. We’re trying to fill it in. The younger girls are starting to get my chemistry going.”
Offensively, the Lady Wildcats saw more cracks in the Greenbrier defense. Julia Jackson’s free kick from 30 yards out caromed off the crossbar early in the second half. A few minutes later, Meadows slid a pass into the box to London Ingram, who flicked it neatly over the keeper for a 2-0 lead with 33:46 on the clock.
El Dorado’s final score came late as Greenbrier frantically tried to push forward. Marleigh Bonsall was the beneficiary of a good feed from Mary Kate Shepherd. Bonsall turned and fired a left-footed shot into the net with 2:52 left in the match.
“We got tested. I think we stood up to the challenge,” said Matthews. “The girls got all of the emotions out in the first couple minutes of the half. Once they settled down, I thought they played well. We did what we had to do to get out of here with a win. Overall, I’m happy.”
The Lady Wildcats appeared to have a speed advantage at the outset, which grew larger as the heat began taking its toll. Matthews felt his players were able to handle the heat better, which showed in the second half.
“This was our biggest test. Not only the weather, but the skill level we played. They stepped up,” said Matthews, who said Searcy will bring an even more daunting challenge.
“We just have to play who’s in front of us. Tomorrow will be a bigger test. It only gets harder from here.”
Searcy, the defending state champion, beat Russellville 4-0 on Friday to run its record to 15-0-1. The other quarterfinal games saw Siloam Springs top Jonesboro 2-0 and Little Rock Christian upend Hot Springs Lakeside 4-1.