Leader Blues

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

SPORTS>>Lady Falcons shut out BHS for 5A-East championship

By JASON KING
Leader sportswriter

Losing 10 seniors from a team would usually spell devastation for many, but this year’s North Pulaski Lady Falcons soccer team responded from the loss of 10 players off of the ’06 team with a conference championship in 2007. The Lady Falcons went through the 5A-East Conference schedule with a 4-0 undefeated mark, capping off their campaign with a 4-0 shutout win at Batesville on Friday to take outright possession of the East crown.

It is far from the first trip to the state playoffs for the Lady Falcons in recent years, but entering as an undisputed No. 1 seed this year is a far cry from the team that barely squeaked in as a No. 4 seed last year.

Lady Falcons co-coach Christy Delao hopes that is not where the differences will end after NP was knocked out of the playoffs in the first round last year.

“This is our seventh straight year of making it to the state playoffs,” Delao said. “This is our first time to enter with a high seed, so hopefully that will help us in the first couple of games.

“The girls are all excited, especially the freshmen. The older ones have been there before, but for our younger players, they are beyond excited.”

The Lady Falcons essentially closed the deal with Batesville in the first half, scoring three goals in the first half before sophomore Kara Sargent added an insurance goal 10 minutes into the second half.

Freshman Claire ?? started things off for North Pulaski with a goal 10 minutes into the first half. Defender Sara Watson has been a strong part of the Lady Falcons team this year, but she got her chance at a rare offensive play on a penalty kick for the next goal. Watson’s kick was good for a goal, her first ever in high school varsity action.

Senior exchange student Sophia Weber added the final goal of the first half, as the Lady Falcons went with mostly subs for the second half.

Goalkeeping has been a crucial part of the Lady Falcons success this year as well. Starting junior goalkeeper Lacey Ellis saw little action on Friday with only two touches in the first half before being replaced by freshman Brandi Glover in the second half, but has limited opponents’ chances at scores all season.

The obvious question from most is how the Lady Falcons turned things around from being a decent playoff-capable team to the powerhouse squad they have proven to be this year. De Lao says the formation of an 18U rec. team that essentially became a North Pulaski summer team gave the girls a lot more time on the field together, making team chemistry for this season almost second nature.

“They have really come closer as a team this year,” De Lao said. “We basically got to play the whole year, the rec. league ended just a few weeks before the high school season started, and that good core rec. experience really made the difference.” De Lao says she and her husband Javier will coach rec. this summer before their final year as coaches of North Pulaski in 2008. Although their daughter Megan graduates this year, De Lao says they will stay with the team one more year until a replacement can be put in place. Javier De Lao, now in his second year as NP head coach, has been a part of the soccer program for the Falcons since 2001.

Although their opponent is yet to be decided, North Pulaski will begin state playoff play on April 28 in Harrison. They will defend their 9-2-1 overall record against the No. 4 seed from the ?? conference.