FAYETTEVILLE — Friday, Conway High’s Lady Cats tasted the sour side of state championship competition.
Last year at this time, the Conway soccer team traveled from Fayetteville back to Conway with a trophy and celebrating the sweetness of a 7A girls state title after a dominating, 3-0 win over Bentonville, the defending state champion. It capped an undefeated season.
Friday afternoon, Bentonville (15-4-1) turned the tables on the Lady Cats, claiming the state championship with a 1-0 victory and ending the Conway season at 21-2.
The Lady Tigers threw a short in the Conway offensive attack from the beginning.
Bentonville limited Conway in shot attempts and goalkeeper Lexie Chitty had a routine afternoon of denying Conway’s attack.
"This was a totally different game (than last year)," said Conway coach Whitney Allison, who was at her final match as coach before she leaves for Charlotte School of Law. "You have to give Bentonville credit and an ovation to (coach) Kris Henry for the job she’s done, taking this team to the championship match so many consecutive years (four championships in the last six years and six consecutive title game appearances)."
Bentonville’s McKenzie Dixon said she never saw what proved to be the winning shot after it left her foot. The shot from 16 yards out sailed into the left side of the net and she kew it was in by the roar of the crowd.
"At first I didn’t think it was going in," she said. "I was just in awe. I couldn’t believe it, and then it was crazy.
"I had a defender in front of me, so I couldn’t see it. Then I heard everybody scream, and I just said ‘Yes!’"
Unlike last season, Bentonville was the aggressor through most of the first half.
"We were so much more composed, and our work rate was fantastic," Henry said. "I mean the girls worked. They all talked about leaving everything on the field, and they were spent. Composure was the key. They didn’t get rattled, and that early goal helped. I felt that if we scored first and scored that early goal, that was going to be a big difference."
The Lady Wampus Cats tried a number of long kicks in hopes of getting a player past Bentonville’s defense, but it wore them down in the long run.
"They were more ready for us," Allison said, "and we couldn’t get it going. We’ve had a problem this season of getting things clicking, and for one reason or another we couldn’t get it to click."