All-star games are a time where rivals put their hatred for their opposing competition aside for the joy of the game.
This was the case as high school athletes gathered from around the state to play in the annual Arkansas High School Coaches Association All-Star Games on June 22 at the University of Central Arkansas.
The soccer games presented no different, especially in the girls game, which ended in a 6-4 victory for the West All-Stars.
“It’s fun to watch because, as coaches, we don’t have that same rivalry,” Conway girls soccer coach Kevin DeStefano said. “We’re all very friendly with one another and we have to support each other, especially in soccer because sometimes, we don’t get it from outside sources. As coaches, we don’t feel the intensity of the rivalry as much as the players do.
“It was cool seeing the Bryant keeper, who made three amazing saves against us when we were at Conway, come out and play so well. She bonded well with our girls and the Southside girls bonding with our girls. Seeing these Mountain Home and Marion girls come together and compete. It’s what this game is all about and it’s what makes it special and a special occasion for the kids.”
DeStefano, who’s Lady Cats lost in the second round of the 7A State Tournament, was proud of the East team’s effort despite the loss.
“I think us fighting is what was the most impressive about this game,” he said. “Before the game, I told them I only had two objectives: to first have fun and enjoy this experience. It’s not something everyone gets to experience. The second was to make sure when they walk off the field, whether they made mistakes or not, they could be proud of the work ethic they put out.
“They only had really a day and a half of training together as a group, which you could kind of tell defensively we were disorganized as a group. They did well. They played against probably the best player in the state in [Rogers’] Skylurr [Patrick]. They handled their own and take away her three goals and we actually end up winning this game. I’m really pleased with the whole group and how they came together and bonded. A lot of them who used to be enemies and rivals have become friends and that’s always fun about these kinds of occasions.”
DeStefano had a couple representatives from Mia and Madeline Graff.
“They played like themselves,” he said. “They work hard all the time and put a lot of work ethic in. I’m very pleased with how they played. That’s how I expect them to play, even in an exhibition game like this, they still work hard and do the right things.”
Conway Christian also had a representative in Kendra Lea, who DeStefano has coached previously.
“Kendra did great,” he said. “I was lucky enough to have her as a club player two or three years ago and she decided to focus on basketball and her school work. She looks like the player that played in club. She does a great job and does the little things right. I was pleased with her and how she played. It was a good way to end her high school career in a game like this.”
West All-Star Brooklyn Buckminster, from Siloam Springs, finished as the West’s most outstanding player, scoring two of the West’s six goals.
The East’s most outstanding player was Southside’s Kelly Carson, who scored a hat trick.
The Most Valuable Player was the Patrick, who also scored a hat trick in the West victory.
West 1, East 0
The boys game, was much more competitive in goal, with the game ending in a 1-0 victory for the West.
At the 25:03 mark in the second half, El Dorado’s Luis Torres pushed a goal past the East goalkeeper, to score the game’s only point.
It was a highly competitive affair, which kept possession of the ball on either team’s side of the pitch for a seemingly balanced amount of time.
Despite scoring the game’s lone goal, Torres was not named an outstanding player, nor the game’s MVP.
Benton’s Breck Rambo was named MVP, while Siloam Springs’ Jack Bos was named the West’s outstanding player and Conway’s Evan Trimble was named for the same honor for the East.