The Benton Panther soccer team won the 6A South Conference Thursday night, defeating Lake Hamilton in penalty kicks at home. Tied at 2 at the end of regulation, Benton keeper Eric Powers “made a great save” on the last attempt by Lake Hamilton to secure the victory.
“If we had loss, there would have been a four-way tie for first,” coach Wes Ables said. “We would have had the four seed [in the state tournament]. So it was pretty important to get the win.”
The Panthers finished the year 10-4 overall and 8-2 in the 6A South to secure the one seed in next Saturday’s state tournament. Benton will play at 4 p.m., but their opponent is still undecided as the rest of the conference is still up in the air.
Ables said this is the first time that Benton has won a conference championship in soccer since 2005.
Daniel Ramirez scored a goal in the first half to tie the game and Clint Powell scored Benton’s second goal in the same half to give the Panthers a 2-1 lead in regulation.
The Panthers are currently riding a six-game win streak after also defeating El Dorado 2-1 Wednesday. Ables said heading into this week, the 6A South was up for grabs, but their two wins this week put Benton on top.
Powers and left defender Eli Nehus are the only two seniors on the team as the Panthers are mostly made up of freshman and sophomores.
“We had kids banged up, but we pushed through some injuries and I was pretty impressed with that,” Ables said.
LAKE HAMILTON 2 LADY PANTHERS 1
In other action, the Benton Lady Panther soccer team lost 2-1 to Lake Hamilton Thursday night to finish the season at 5-8 with a 2-6 record in the 6A South.
After a season high 11 saves in the loss to El Dorado Wednesday night, keeper Angela Walker had four saves against the Lady Wolves.
Benton’s lone goal came from Carmen King, who scored on corner kick by Mariah Temple at 23:42 minute mark of the first half.
“The game was physical and very evenly matched, as most of our games were this year,” coach Jason Gentry said. “It seems we just keep running out of gas.
“It’s not that these ladies are not in shape, it’s the face that they play as hard as they can all the time. That is a testament to our seniors and captains’ leadership.”
Gentry said seniors Kate Ross, Lauren Goines, Rose McGuire, Anna Clay, Lorena Pasqual, Angela Waler and Akane Forbess have done “an awesome job of adjusting to the style of play and being leaders on the field.”
“Kate and Lauren were voted captains by their teammates. Akane Forbess was unable to play this season due to a knee injury suffered during basketball season, but she was very helpful as another ‘coach,’” Gentry said. “Losing her was a big shot to us, but this group of seniors kept everything together and did a great job.
“The regular season didn’t end the way these ladies wanted it, but we know what we are capable of doing when we play together and play with intensity.”