Leader Blues

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

SPORTS>>Searcy boys, girls repeat as state champs

Leader sportswriter

Another year, another state title sweep for Searcy soccer.

The Lions avenged their only 6A-East Conference loss of the season with a 3-1 win over Mountain Home on Saturday in the state championship game at LadyBack Field. The Lady Lions did what they have done all year — shut down a stout Jonesboro team for their fourth and biggest win of the year over the Lady Hurricane, 5-0, to secure their second state crown in as many years.

“We’re losing some great seniors,” Lions coach Jeff Davis said. “They were big leaders for us, so it will be a challenge to fill everyone’s shoes, but I think these kids are up for the challenge. It is difficult to winw one state championship, let alone two, so I am very proud of what these kids have accomplished.”

Girls coach Cindy Emfinger was every bit as proud. Rachel Maina scored four goals for Searcy to take home MVP honors, but Emfinger insisted it took every one to pull of the feat.

“We had 32 girls this season,” she said. “And everyone of them had something unique to offer to the team. There were some that may not have been the fastest or the strongest or had the most skill, but every one combined to give us a great team effort all year.”

The Bombers struck first on Saturday, taking an early 1-0 lead before freshman Steven Seitz took an assist from Spencer May to tie the game before intermission. The second half was all Searcy, as Kiefer Keichline and May each scored in the final 40 minutes for the Lions, while senior goalkeeper Ryan Wilburn earned MVP honors by holding the MH strikers at bay.

The only Bomber goal in the game came on a free kick. Wilburn thought the kicker was offsides, and therefore did not put up a complete attempt at blocking.

“Ryan knew he made a mistake,” Davis said. “He hesitated, and it cost us a goal, but he shut them down in the second half. He ended up with some pretty big stops. They had two or three other opportunities, but he was solid.”

Team captain Wilburn is one of nine departing seniors, eight of whom had starting spots on the team this year. Davis says the rebuilding process won’t be easy, but said he thinks there is adequate talent to replace the departing team members.

Searcy’s success last season was off the radar for much of the year, but Davis said taking everyone’s best shot and still prevailing makes this season’s title even sweeter.

“We knew we were going into the season with a target on our backs,” Davis said. “We had to take everyone’s best game, and we had to fight for the win no matter who we were taking on. The second title is always harder to win than the first one, but these kids fought all year long.”

The Lady Lions’ defense thwarted all but three Jonesboro attempts. The midfielder combo of Brittany Falcinelli and Caleigh Woodruff kept the Lady Hurricane strikers out of the scoring zones, and allowed Searcy to control tempo most of the night. For the few attempts that got by the duo, Emfinger said Elizabeth Naglak was there for additional stops.

“They didn’t have many shots,” Emfinger said. “Our defense was solid. Jonesboro is a well-coached team, very aggressive. We expected them to put us on our heels early.”

Maina’s hat trick gave the Lady Lions a comfortable lead early on, and a second-half goal by McKenzie Clark ended up as the only non-Maina score of the game, before the tourney MVP closed out the season by putting one more in the net.