One of my favorite photos in Siloam Springs sports history was shot by my pal Bud Sullins on Friday, May 23, 2014, -- the afternoon that the Siloam Springs girls soccer team won its first state soccer title.
In the photo, we have a picture of Grace Simpson -- who had just scored the game-clinching, state-title-winning penalty kick to beat Mountain Home -- running toward a mob of Lady Panther teammates with the biggest smiles you've ever seen.
It is a photo of pure, absolute joy.
And that's what it was like on that overcast afternoon.
Because in that moment, the Siloam Springs Lady Panthers were state champions of Class 6A -- an achievement never seen before in the women's soccer program here.
I don't think there's any way that anyone could have predicted on that day what was to follow over the next several years.
Nobody could have predicted that the Lady Panthers would celebrate like this each of the next four years as well, winning a total of five straight Class 6A state titles.
Each one of them was special in their own unique way.
But this photo of the 2014 team -- it will always be my favorite.
When I started covering Siloam Springs girls soccer in the spring of 2010, the product on the field was a stark contrast to the boys team.
In 2010, the boys were already an established program, having been to two state finals in 2005 and 2007. The girls, on the other hand, had been moderately successful and reached the state semifinals in 2008, but that's as close as the Lady Panthers had gotten to a state title.
In 2010, the Lady Panthers' season came to an end in the first round of the Class 5A state tournament with an upset loss to Little Rock Mills -- an absolute shocker.
The 2011 team advanced to the quarterfinals before getting bounced from the postseason and the 2012 team was out in the first round as well.
That leads us into 2013. With five straight state titles from 2014-2018, the 2013 team sort of gets lost in the shuffle a bit.
But that team went on a memorable run in the playoffs at Searcy, including upsetting Greenwood in the quarterfinals and then beating Russellville in the semifinals, to reach its first state final. The Lady Panthers lost that state final to Searcy 3-1, but an argument can be made that it was the 2013 team -- along with portions of the teams in 2010, 2011 and 2012, that laid the groundwork for the success for years to come.
It's been an absolute great time covering Siloam Springs girls soccer over the years.
These trips down memory lane with different sports have been a lot of fun and the girls soccer memories are no different.
The five straight state titles are amazing, but there have been some fun players and coaches to come through as well.
• 2014 -- One of the great highlights of the 2014 season gets lost in the shuffle of the Lady Panthers winning their first state title.
During the regular season, the Lady Panthers defeated Class 7A powerhouse Bentonville in penalty kicks at the Tiger Athletic Complex, ending the Lady Tigers' 43-game conference winning streak, which dated back to the start of the 2008 conference season.
It was a milestone victory for sure, but the Lady Panthers couldn't sustain the momentum and went on to lose their next four conference matches, heading into the state playoffs.
But once the playoffs started in Russellville, Siloam Springs was able to regroup and knock off Jonesboro in the quarterfinals to set up a matchup with Russellville in the semifinals.
In the semifinals, a shot off the foot of Jaci Hoelscher bounced off the wet turf at Cyclone Stadium and went over the head of Russellville's keeper in extra time to break a tie and send the Lady Panthers to the state finals.
In the finals against Mountain Home, Siloam Springs got out to a 2-0 lead only to watch Mountain Home tie it up at 2-2. The game went through two extra time periods and into kicks from the spot (PKs).
Senior goalkeeper Bailei Brown, who was named state tournament MVP, made three saves in the PK period, and Simpson's shot to the lower right corner of the goal won it for the Lady Panthers. Annika Bos and Ingrid Gibson also made their PKs, and senior Grayson Tharp missed her shot, but Tharp might have been the true inspiration for that game. She played the game with several fractured bones in her face, suffered just a week before state playoffs, and had to wear a special face guard for the final. One couldn't help but be happy for her on that day.
• 2015 -- The 2015 season started with high expectations for the defending state champions and a lot of excitement.
Adversity hit before the season ever began though.
Coach Jason Bowen was placed on a leave of absence just days before the start of the season and would resign his position days later, citing health concerns.
In stepped Chuck Jones as head coach, who was going into his first year as head track coach after several years as assistant soccer coach.
The Jones-led Lady Panthers opened up Panther Stadium with a 5-0 win over Springdale and had a good season, including the program's first win over rival Harrison in nearly a decade.
State playoffs were back in Searcy that year, and Siloam Springs blew out Texarkana in the quarterfinals round, thanks to a hat trick from freshman Megan Hutto, who the coaches had recently moved into the attack.
That brings us to the semifinals against Mountain Home, in what then-assistant coach Luke Shoemaker and I will always refer to as the "Sweep the Leg game."
To be honest, it was not looking good for the Lady Panthers, who trailed 2-0 with 19 minutes, 45 seconds remaining after two Mountain Home goals.
The Lady Panthers were discombobulated, rattled, yelling at each other on the field.
And then, amazingly, Siloam Springs woke from its slumber.
The Lady Panthers scored five goals to storm back for a 5-2 victory. Freshmen Megan Hutto and Audrey Maxwell scored goals to tie the game. Hutto scored again for a 3-2 lead and Maycee Lance added two more goals to finish off the shocked Lady Bombers.
It was amazing to watch it unfold.
The "Sweep the Leg" reference comes from 1984 classic movie The Karate Kid. In the movie, when Daniel is fighting Johnny in the tournament, the Cobra Kai sensei Kreece tells Johnny to "sweep the leg ... no mercy" and later screams "Finish him!"
During the Lady Panthers' run of goals against Mountain Home, I have this wonderful memory of Shoemaker yelling to the Lady Panthers to "Finish them!" And that moment has evolved over the years to the "Sweep the Leg" game.
The Lady Panthers didn't so much sweep the leg but they showed no mercy on Mountain Home.
Siloam Springs went on to win its second straight state title a week later with a 1-0 win against Searcy, with the only goal coming from Maycee Lance. Hutto earned MVP honors as a freshman.
• 2016 -- I can't take any credit for the Lady Panthers winning their state title in 2016, but I might have given them a good bit of motivation heading into the state tournament that year.
Rumor has it that a Timeout column that I wrote prior to state tournament may or may not have been taped to the ceiling of the bus for everyone to see.
And I believe what I said in that piece was true, that if the Lady Panthers played in the state tournament the way they had played in the regular season, it could be a disappointing playoffs for the team. After all, Siloam Springs was a very pedestrian 10-8-1 overall heading into the playoffs.
So of course the Lady Panthers went on to destroy Benton 7-1 in the quarterfinals, thanks to five goals from Maycee Lance. They then thumped tournament host El Dorado 6-0 in the semifinals.
State tournament MVP Audrey Maxwell scored the only goal of the Lady Panthers' 1-0 win over Russellville in the state finals to win their third straight state title and first of three straight under coach Brent Crenshaw.
• 2017 -- What Siloam Springs lacked in dominance in 2016, they more than made up for it the next two seasons, beginning in 2017.
The Lady Panthers finished 24-3 overall, led by record-setting goal scorer Audrey Maxwell, who finished with a single-season school record 42 goals and 18 assists and was named the All-Arkansas Preps and Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Player of the Year.
Not to be lost in that is the season that Megan Hutto had, scoring 25 goals and setting a school record with 22 assists.
Here's how dominant Siloam Springs was: They outscored the opposition 128-20. One hundred twenty eight to TWENTY!
The Lady Panthers blew out nearly every team they played, including manhandling Russellville 5-0 in the 6A-West Conference finals and 6-1 in the Class 6A state title game. Maxwell was MVP for the second straight year.
It's as dominant a team as I have ever covered in my career.
Funny story, when I went back and looked at the 2017 preseason preview I wrote in February of that year, coach Brent Crenshaw told me there were concerns about the team's depth. Several players from the year before, including Maycee Lance, decided not to return that year, and the Lady Panthers had some young players that had to come through. And boy did they, and that wound up being huge for the next season.
• 2018 -- The Lady Panthers won their fifth straight state title in 2018 and finished with a 22-3-2 record, but they had to work for everything they got.
Before the season started, record-setting scorer Audrey Maxwell tore her ACL while playing club soccer, a huge blow to a team that was the clear favorite to win 6A soccer.
Even with Maxwell's injury, the team rallied behind seniors Megan Hutto, Meghan Kennedy, Brooklyn Buckminster and Sydney Bomstad to have another great season, even though it wasn't as dominant as the year before.
Hutto emerged as the team's go-to player up top, scoring 29 goals and breaking her own assist record with 23.
Buckminster controlled the midfield for the Lady Panthers while Kennedy anchored the defensive back line. And Bomstad moved from forward to goal to replace all-state goalkeeper Anna Claire Lewis, who was a three-year starter and played a lot on the team's 2014 title team.
The Lady Panthers won their conference tournament but were faced with adversity in the quarterfinals of the state tournament at Russellville, where they drew the host Lady Cyclones on their home field.
Down 1-0 in the second half, freshman Madi Race's aggressive play up top gave the Lady Panthers' offense a spark and Hutto went on to score two goals for a 2-1 win.
The Lady Panthers defeated Searcy 5-1 the next day in the semifinals, thanks to four goals from Laura Morales, who finished with 25 goals on the season.
A worn down Siloam Springs team held off Benton 1-0 in the state finals with the game's only score coming from Hutto, who garnered MVP honors for the second time in her career. An honorable mention MVP goes to Hailey Dorsey, who controlled the game in the defensive midfield for the Lady Panthers.
An article in the Herald-Leader reported that the 2018 senior class finished with an overall record of 73-18-3 for a winning percentage of .776.
The combination of Bomstad, Buckminster, Hutto, Kennedy and Maxwell scored 173 goals and contributed 124 assists, while Bomstad also had 122 saves in one year of playing in the goal.
All good things come to an end, and that's what happened to the Lady Panthers in 2019.
Led by first-year head coach Abby Ray, a former SSHS player and assistant coach, the Lady Panthers finished 14-8 overall and lost in the state quarterfinals 1-0 to Searcy on the Lady Lions' home field.
It wasn't a bad year at all for Siloam Springs, who handed 5A state champ Little Rock Christian its only loss. The Lady Panthers were in contention for a conference title.
It was a tough end to the streak for the Lady Panthers, who were no doubt looking to rebound in 2020 before the covid-19 pandemic hit.
Just like the boys team, I've been fortunate enough to cover a lot of great girls soccer players at Siloam Springs.
I think back to the 2010, 2011 and 2012 teams which featured Adrienne Kennedy (2010 and 2011) and Ashley Cowan (2010 and 2012).
Both were terrific goal scorers. Kennedy, who went on to play and coach at John Brown, scored 91 goals for her career, which ranks only second to Sarah Kidd, who scored 101 goals and went on to play at John Brown. Cowan finished with 61 goals in just three seasons, missing her junior year.
Leah Anderson was a solid senior player for the 2011 team at Siloam Springs and Hannah Poor started in goal as a sophomore, the beginning of a long, great career that saw her get to play for a state title in 2013.
Morgan Jackson, Ingrid Gibson and Grayson Tharp -- all, who would win state titles as seniors in 2014 -- were freshmen on that 2011 team.
The 2012 team featured all conference players like Sami Abbey, Michaela Treece, Colleen Kretzer, Jackson and Annabeth Raiford (honorable mention) to go with Poor and Cowan.
Dynamic scorer Odalys Palacios also was on that team as were Annika Bos and Jaci Hoelscher.
That same group played for a state title in 2013.
These are the players that laid the groundwork.
Then there's the great players from the state title years, many of whom have already been mentioned: Lindsey Czapansky, Bailei Brown, Kaylie Lane, Grace Simpson, Annika Bos, Khenli Harp, Maycee Lance, Anna Claire Lewis, Mackenzie Jones, Abigail Cole, Megan Hutto, Audrey Maxwell, Meghan Kennedy, Sydney Bomstad, Brooklyn Buckminster, Paige Thompson, Laura Morales, Shelby Johnson, Hailey Dorsey, Hadley Crenshaw, Madi Race, Jaileigh Harp, Bethany Markovich, Sydney Moorman and I could go on and on and on.
For anyone I left out, I do apologize. There have been a tremendous amount of young ladies to wear the Lady Panther uniform over the years.
-- Graham Thomas is the managing editor for the Herald-Leader. He can be reached at [email protected] The opinions expressed are those of the author.
Siloam Springs Lady Panthers
Year -- Record (W-L-T)
2010 -- 9-11-1
2011 -- 12-10
2012 -- 9-9-3
2013 -- 14-9**
2014 -- 14-10*
2015 -- 14-4*
2016 -- 13-8-1*
2017 -- 24-3*
2018 -- 22-3-2*
2019 -- 14-8
2020 -- 1-3-1
Total -- 146-78-8 (.629)
- State champions
** State runner-up
Sports on 05/20/2020
Print Headline: Lady Panther soccer: A decade of dominance