FAYETTEVILLE — Central Arkansas Christian won the seventh girls state soccer championship in school history Friday with a 7-1 shellacking of Joe T. Robinson in the Class 4A final at the University of Arkansas’s Razorback Field.
Carter Lambert’s team finished 18-0-1, its only blemish a 2-2 tie to Class 7A Mount St. Mary.
With titles in 2006, ‘07, ‘08, ‘12, ‘13, ‘16 and ‘17, the Lady Mustangs trail only Class 7A Bentonville in all-time championships. The Lady Tigers won their eighth last week.
Senior midfielder Amalie Gunn scored a state-record six goals. The previous mark was five by Cori Keller of Stuttgart.
But surprisingly, Lambert said, the Lady Mustangs were a little flat at the start.
“We played after Maumelle, and our girls were really pulling for them,” he said. “I think we lost a bit of energy because of their final result, and then our game was delayed approximately an hour due to weather.
“At the same time, everything Amalie Gunn touched turned into a goal, so we didn’t really get a chance to execute like we normally do. Great problem for a coach.”
Gunn, who had spent most of the spring concentrating on track, played just her eighth soccer match of the season. She scored four goals in the first half, giving the Lady Mustangs leads of 3-0 and 4-1.
She added goals at 34:19 and 19:47 of the second half for a 6-1 CAC lead. Lauren Johnson’s score at 10:31 of the second half initiated the Arkansas Activities Association’s sportsmanship rule.
Gunn scored 17 goals in her eight season matches.
“This was the first time that Robinson had seen Amalie, and I think they were a bit shocked,” Lambert said. “We had beaten them 7-1, 7-0 and 7-0 the previous times we played, so the score line wasn’t any different, but it can be a bit overwhelming to have Amalie and McKenna Moore coming at you at the same time. I was proud of our team. We didn’t force things and took what they gave us.
“When you usually score multiple goals yourself, it is easy to press and try make things happen. Sophomores Lauren Johnson (46 goals, 20 assists) and McKenna Moore (26 goals, 25 assists) played unselfishly and worked hard for the team.”
Gunn, who had qualified for the 100- , 200- and 400-meter dashes in the Meet of Champions, elected not to compete in the track event in order to be with her soccer teammates in the state semifinals. She scored four goals in a 7-0 win over Dardanelle.
But her championship performance wasn’t expected.
“I didn’t really see it coming,” she said. “I hadn’t played against them before. My coach told their coach then we were missing a player, and their coach came up at halftime (in the final) and said, ‘I didn’t understand what you meant. Now I do.’”
Lambert said his defense was disappointed to allow a goal — only the fifth of the season.
“It was about a 40-yard shot that just sailed over (keeper) Madyson (Bowman)’s head,” he said. “It was a bit of a fortunate shot, but we gave their best player too much room, and she took advantage of it. Our back four — juniors Carson Swede, Kelson Miller and Brittney Perry and senior Hallie Bull — have been fantastic all season.”
He said the Lady Mustang defense gave their midfield the freedom to be involved in the offensive attack.
“Riley Sullivan had three assists on Friday, and she and Claire Vest accounted for 44 assists on the year,” he said. “We had a strong rotation of outside midfielders that do a lot of running in our system. Juniors Jenna Davis and Emma Dalby and freshman Kelly Chism had strong games.”
Gunn, headed to Missouri State to continue her track career, said soccer had been her passion before deciding to focus on track this year.
“Doubling has been kind of hard,” she said. “I played maybe two or three matches during the season.”
The Lady Mustangs successfully defended their title from a year ago.
“This one, I guess it showed my love for the game,” Gunn said. “I was happy but more sad, actually. I would take all the glory away if I could keep playing.”
The Lady Mustangs graduate just Gunn and Bull.
“We are losing two key seniors, but we have a strong group of supporting players returning as well as a strong group of incoming freshmen that we can build on,” Lambert said. “We want to take time to appreciate and celebrate this year’s special season, but in the next couple of weeks we will sit down and evaluate areas that we can improve and begin to plan for next year.
“Our juniors have a chance to go for a third championship in three years. That would be special, and they are a special group.”