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Pulaski Academy eliminates Lady Panthers

by Graham Thomas | May 12, 2023 at 5:00 p.m.
Graham Thomas/Herald-Leader Siloam Springs senior Anna Wleklinski and junior Jetta Broquard (No. 6) embrace just moments after the Lady Panthers were defeated 2-1 by Pulaski Academy in the 5A state soccer quarterfinals at Nettleton's Raider Field on Friday in Jonesboro.

JONESBORO -- The ball didn't bounce Siloam Springs' way on Friday. And neither did the breaks.

Pulaski Academy scored two goals on penalty kicks and held off a late Lady Panthers' charge to defeat Siloam Springs 2-1 in the 5A state quarterfinals Friday at Raider Field on the campus of Nettleton High School.

"I was really proud of the girls," said Siloam Springs coach Abby Jones. "They never stopped battling. (Thursday)'s game, they were down 1-0 and came back for the win, and today we're down 1-0 at halftime and we keep battling the whole second half, even down 2-0 we're still going at them and we get a goal out of it. So I was proud of their resilience. They don't put their heads down. They just keep fighting to the end, and that's something that speaks to their character for sure."

The Lady Panthers fell behind 1-0 in the 15th minute when a hand ball in the box gave the Lady Bruins a penalty kick.

Carmen Owens was successful on her penalty kick try with 25:49 left in the first half to give the Lady Bruins (19-1) a 1-0 lead.

The score remained 1-0 until the 57th minute when Pulaski Academy was awarded another penalty kick. Owens again was able to score on the PK with 23:11 remaining and a 2-0 lead.

"I think we started really well," said Pulaski Academy coach Chris Owen. "I think we started pretty fast, and we got a goal. But I think the game settled down a little bit. I knew it was going to be close. They're a good team. They're well-coached. It's always going to be a tight game. I think the second goal helped us a little more where we could change things around a little bit. But it was a really hard game. I think it was two good teams. I thought both teams battled really hard and it was competitive. I'm just happy to come out with a victory in the end."

Pulaski Academy advances to Saturday's semifinal game against El Dorado.

The Lady Bruins outshot Siloam Springs 12-5 overall with 10 of those being on target. Junior goalkeeper Ahnaka Buxton made six saves in the first half, but was injured late in the first half. Freshman Norah Perkins played the entire second half in goal for Siloam Springs, while Buxton did re-enter as a midfielder in the second half.

Defensively, Jones was pleased with Siloam Springs' performance as the Lady Panthers did not give up a goal in the field of play.

But after Pulaski Academy grabbed a lead, the Lady Bruins started sending reinforcements back defensively, making it difficult for Siloam Springs to generate much offense.

"As soon as we gave up the PK, they did start playing more defense and after they had the second goal, they had five in the back," Jones said. "So they parked the bus on us, so that's one reason we weren't able to get a great attack going. I think they're a solid team, so it was a battle back and forth. We weren't able to get as many shots on goal as we had hoped. I attribute that to their defense."

It also wound up being a very physical game, Jones said, which caught the Lady Panthers off guard.

"Ref let a lot of that go," she said. "It took us a little bit to answer the physicality because we weren't expecting that. I don't think any of us came into this game expecting a private school is going to be shoving after the ball is gone, so I think it took us a little while to match that level of physicality, not knowing they would bring that to the game."

Down 2-0, Siloam Springs came to life late offensively. Mesa Broquard scored her 25th goal of the season off an assist from sister Jetta Broquard with 2:28 remaining in the match.

Siloam Springs kept scratching and clawing, pushing numbers forward, trying to get an equalizer and got the ball back in the Lady Bruins' zone but couldn't score again.

"I really think that our girls did a good job battling to the end," Jones said. "I mean we left nothing out there."

Siloam Springs' season ends at 15-5-2 overall after reaching the state finals last year.

The Lady Panthers lose eight seasons but return a solid group of players that could make another run next season.

"We lose eight seniors, but I think we come back even stronger," Jones said. "We had a really big freshman group this year that the older they get the better they're going to get. I think they got a little taste of what the state tournament is all about. They'll be ready to win a championship in the future."

photo Graham Thomas/Herald-Leader Pulaski Academy's Eva Dietz (left) and Siloam Springs' Faith Ellis battle for position during Friday's 5A quarterfinals match at Raider Field on the campus of Nettleton Schools in Jonesboro.

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