Central Arkansas Christian’s Lady Mustang soccer team improved to 10-0-1 Monday with an 8-0 win over Malvern.
Carter Lambert’s team has outscored its opponents, 79-3.
Last week, CAC beat Baptist Prep, 7-0; and Benton Harmony Grove, 13-0; before tying Class 7A Mount St. Mary, 2-2.
“We had a good week,” Lambert said. “I was able to rest our starters and give supporting players significant playing time (against Baptist Prep and Harmony Grove). Harmony Grove played hard. They have a relatively new soccer program.”
He called the Mount St. Mary game “our first real test of the season.”
“We had a full squad except for sophomore Claire Vest, who I held out as she recovers from an ankle injury,” Lambert said. “She could have played if it had been a critical game, but senior forward Amalie Gunn, who is juggling track, was able to play. That allowed me to drop sophomore Lauren Johnson back into the midfield with junior Riley Sullivan. Lauren has been our top scorer playing primarily as a striker, but her natural position has been midfield so the quality of our play wasn’t negatively impacted by Claire’s absence.”
He said his team responded well to the challenge of playing the Belles, one of the state’s top teams, although it took the Lady Mustangs a few minutes in the first half to adjust to the quicker speed of play. Still, CAC was up 2-0 at the half.
“Amalie and sophomore McKenna Moore are hard to handle, especially out wide in space,” Lambert said. “They created multiple opportunities from crosses, and Lauren converted two crosses and just missed two more in the first half. Amalie had the first assist and McKenna assisted the second goal.”
He said sophomore keeper Madyson Bowman was effective against several Mount St. Mary chances.
“She rarely touches the ball in our conference games, so this was a great experience for her,” he said. “As usual, everything we do builds off our strong defensive play. Junior stopper Carson Swede and junior sweeper Kelson Miller are the heart of our defense and did a great job reading the game and containing the MSM attack. Senior Hallie Bull and junior Brittney Perry were given marking responsibilities and were fantastic all game, particularly in the first half.”
He praised the play of outside midfielders Emma Dalby and Jenna Davis, both juniors, and freshman Kelly Chism.
But the Belles came out with a roar in the second half.
“Their coach made some adjustments at half, and they nearly overran us in the first 10 or 15 minutes of the second half,” Lambert said. “We got stretched defensively, and their midfield started picking us apart and putting our defenders under a lot of pressure. We didn’t adjust quickly enough and got a little rattled.”
The Belles drew within 2-1 off an errant pass by the Lady Mustangs that they intercepted.
“She found an unmarked forward who made a really nice shot from outside the box,” Lambert said. “Madyson really didn’t have a chance. They had several other excellent chances, and Madyson was incredible and kept us in the game. Their second goal was from a penalty kick. One of their forwards got a step on us and got tripped up when we tried to get a tackle in.”
He said the penalty seemed to settle his team.
“We became more compact, and the last 20 minutes was very competitive,” he said. “We had some great opportunities, and they threatened to score several times, too. They are a very good team and are a little deeper than us.”
Lambert said Vest’s absence hurt.
“The matchups were hard for us, and that limited our substitution options,” he said. “Since this was only our second 80-minute game of the year, I was pleased with the way we stayed focused and pushed through being tired. Riley Sullivan really stepped up in the final 10 minutes and relieved some of the pressure in midfield by winning the ball and keeping possession at some critical times.”
He said CAC coaches were appreciative of Mount St. Mary for scheduling the non-conference game in the midst of league play.
“They don’t really need this game, but they have been willing to help us out this way the past several years,” Lambert said. “Their girls and coaches are first class during and after the game. I always credit them for some of the success we have in our state tournament because we have to raise our game to be competitive with them.”
The Lady Mustangs are scheduled to visit Pulaski Robinson on Wednesday before the 2-4A District Tournament, which starts Saturday.