SOCCER PREVIEW: Strong nucleus returns for Lady Panthers

February 24, 2020

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

A special season may be in store for the Heber Springs Lady Panther soccer team.

The Lady Panthers, who return nine starters, will begin the new season with a preseason jamboree match against Harding Academy in Searcy at 5 p.m. Monday.

McKenzie Beccera and Jillian Herring were named to the Class 4A all-state team in 2019 and lead the list of returnees. Libby Stutts, Abbi Dew, Faith Cowherd, Natalia Durham, Stormi Bradshaw, Katia Rubio and Taylor Hammons round out the list.

“They were players who gave us a lot of good minutes last season,” Heber Springs coach Drew Lawrence said. “I expect them to do the same things this season.”

One of the team’s strengths, other than playing experience, is Cowherd at goalkeeper.

“Faith started every match and played well as a freshman,” Lawrence said. “I’m looking forward of having her back out there.”

Lawrence said experience helped to make practices go smooth.

“Experience makes everything in preseason practice go smoother,” he said. “If I happen to be watching one area of the field, the older players can help teammates in other areas of the field. We’ve been concentrating on passing and playing in small spaces and kick the ball quick toward the goal.”

Three basketball players will add depth to the squad — Ellie Riddle, Lili Chaney and Ashley Spanel. Selena Childress, who played last year, also will be a player to watch.

“I expect Ashley will be a plus with her athletic ability,” Lawrence said. “Four of the five starters in basketball will be playing soccer. We do have four freshmen, and we will see how they develop as players.”

Heber Springs has a challenging non-conference schedule — Vilonia, Morrilton, Conway St. Joseph, Greenbrier, Conway Christian, Cave Ciy and Mountain View. The Lady Panthers will compete against Southside Batesville, Lonoke, Batesville, Jonesboro Westside, Brookland, Valley View and Wynne in the Class 4A North Conference.

“We will be tested,” Lawrence said. “Brookland and Valley View will be the teams to beat, but we plan to contend. We hope to take the next step and become a No. 1 or No. 2 seed for the conference tournament and make a run at the state tournament.”

Lawrence said communication among players on the field will be another key for success.

“We have been working on improving communication,” Lawrence said. “A team doesn’t score often and communication is a part of that.”

HEBER SPRINGS ROSTER
Abbi Dew, Alaina Endicot, Ellie Riddle, Faith Cowherd, Jillian Herring, Katia Rubio, Libby Stutts, Lili Chaney, McKenzie Beccera, Nadia Baureis, Natalia Durham, Sabrina McMullin, Selena Childress, Stormi Bradshaw, Taylor Hammons, Ashley Spanel.

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