Van Buren boys coach Nate Almond knew his team would have no problem scoring this season, but he did have some concerns about how the Pointers' defense would look, especially after sophomore goalkeeper Manases Delafuente went down with an ACL tear before the season even started.
Almond turned to another sophomore, Chris Mendoza, to fill the starting spot, and the goalkeeper has been a surprising asset for Van Buren, which has gone 3-1 in conference play so far this year.
Little Rock Catholic 4-0
Fort Smith Northside 2-2
North Little Rock 2-2
Fort Smith Southside 1-3
Little Rock Central 0-4
Van Buren 3-1
Springdale Har-Ber 2-2
Bentonville West 2-2
Rogers Heritage 0-4
Mt. St. Mary Academy 3-1
Little Rock Central 2-2
Fort Smith Northside 1-3
North Little Rock 1-3
Fort Smith Southside 0-4
Rogers Heritage 3-1
Bentonville West 2-2
Springdale Har-Ber 1-3
Van Buren 0-4
Bentonville West at Rogers Heritage (VG/VB), 5:30 p.m.
Van Buren at Springdale Har-Ber (JVG/VG/VB), 4 p.m.
Springdale High (JVG/VG/VB) at Fayetteville, 4 p.m.
Rogers High at Bentonville High (VG/VB), 5:30 p.m.
North Little Rock (JVG/VG/VB) at FS Northside, 4 p.m.
FS Southside (JVG/VG/VB) at Mount St. Mary/LR Catholic, 4 p.m.;
Rogers Heritage at Fayetteville (JVG, VB, VG), 4 p.m.
Van Buren at Bentonville West (VB/VG), 5:30 p.m.
Springdale Har-Ber (JVB/VB/VG) at Rogers High, 4 p.m.
Springdale High (VB) at Southern Coast Cup, Orange Beach, Ala., TBD;
Bentonville at Springdale High (JVG/VG only), 5:30 p.m.
FS Northside (VG/VB) at Cabot, 4 p.m.
LR Central (JVG/VG/VB) at FS Southside, 4 p.m.
Springdale High (VB) at Southern Coast Cup, Orange Beach, Ala., TBD
"I wasn't really sure that was the direction we were going to go, but he's played well," Almond said. "We've exceeded expectations to a certain degree defensively."
Almond thinks his team has some work to do on the defensive side to help Mendoza out, evident by their 22 goals allowed on the season, which is the third most in Class 6A. However, his team has scored the most goals in the conference with 36.
Driving the Pointers' offense is junior Isaac Delafuente who leads the team with 24 goals this season. Isaac, who had 20 goals his whole sophomore year, had scored 14 times in conference play alone, including four of the team's five goals in Van Buren's comeback win against Rogers Heritage.
"The way he moves without the ball makes him so difficult to mark," Almond said. "He's just that perfect combination of size and strength and speed. If he gets the ball on his difficult, he's very difficult. You better have about three defenders between him and the goal or he's going to go score ... he has a nose for that net. More than any player I have ever coached."
The Pointers will be on the road for both games this week with the first coming against Springdale Har-Ber at 7:30 p.m. today. The girl's game will come before that. Van Buren will then face Bentonville West at 5:30 p.m. Friday while the girls will play after the boys.
Bulldogs meeting expectations
The Bulldogs sit atop the Class 6A-West as the only undefeated team remaining, but coach D.J. Beeler expected his team to be at this point.
Before the season started, Springdale set its goal of winning the conference and securing the No. 1 seed for the state tournament, so Beeler knows his team is on the right track.
"Everything we do, every decision we make is based off winning that championship," Beeler said. "That's just our focus. Can we finish at the top of the conference? Can we give us the best possible seeding for the tournament? Then from there it basically becomes a whole new season for us."
Springdale got past two big tests last week, winning 2-1 over crosstown rival Springdale Har-Ber and winning by the same score against Rogers, which was undefeated in conference play until that point.
Leading the team's offense has been senior forward Jose Vega, who has just entered his stride, Beeler said.
"He had struggled a little bit at the beginning of the year ... I think that frustrated him a little bit," Beeler said. "A lot of people of people are more familiar with baseball and a good hitter getting in a slump, and you know it's just going to happen when he starts connecting and hitting the back of the net that things are going to go his way.
Vega has scored at least two goals in every conference game this season, including all four in Springdale's wins last week, Beeler said. What has impressed Beeler the most about the reigning Gatorade Player of the Year is Vega has been scoring mostly with his weak foot, making him even more difficult to defend.
"He's scored some really good goods and not what we would call tap-ins or anything like that," Beeler said. "He's scored some really quality goals and good finishes with his weak foot. That's been nice to see."
The boys will take the field against Fayetteville at 7:30 p.m. today with the girls playing before them.
Tigers on a roll
Bentonville is riding an eight-match winning streak entering the third week of conference play after it beat Rogers Heritage, 3-0, and narrowly escaped Fayetteville in a game that went to penalty kicks.
"That game was gritty because there was definitely end-to-end wind, so the wind was one direction," Henry said. "Whoever had the wind to their back was really pressing, and (Fayetteville was) really pressing the whole game. They made that goal happen."
Fayetteville tied the score, 1-1, in the final minutes of the game, ending Bentonville's five-game shutout streak. It was the first goal the Tigers had allowed in conference play this year and just the fourth on the season.
Bentonville would go on to win the shootout, 5-4, after senior goalkeeper Bre East saved Fayetteville's first attempt. Senior midfielder Carrie Kotoucek closed out the penalty kicks for the team, helping to secure the win. Junior forward Angelina Diaz scored the team's only goal in regulation, which continued her streak of scoring at least one goal in each conference game.
The Tigers now remain as one of the few remaining undefeated teams in Class 6A and are one of two teams in the West who are perfect. That will change after today when Bentonville will face Rogers, which is also 4-0, at 5:30 p.m. at home. The boys will play after them at 7:30 p.m.
"They've got some quality players that are fast. We'll just have to deal with what they throw at us," Henry said. "Keep our composure and not get rattled."
Henry hopes to have senior midfielder Taylor Muff back in the starting rotation after she played controlled minutes in the game against Fayetteville. Henry plans on having Muff, who's coming back from an MCL sprain, back at full strength by Friday at the latest.
Bentonville will travel to Springdale to play the Bulldogs at 7:30 p.m. Friday with the boys' game coming before the girls'.
War Eagles learn from loss
Rogers Heritage dropped its first conference game 3-0 against Bentonville last week, and while the War Eagles are sitting at third place in Class 6A-West, coach Skye Stover thinks his team learned what can push them past the top two teams.
"It takes 100 percent of your effort when you're out there and that was something we were seeing when we were playing Bentonville," Stover said. "You can freeze up in high school. In college, you can't freeze up like that. In the pros, you can't freeze up like that. If you're tired tell me, let me take you off and put someone else in."
Stover wants to see his team develop a mentality of seeing every possession as a chance to attack, which was something he thought was not as apparent as it should have been in the self-described disappointing loss for the team.
Heritage stayed with the Tigers for most of the game but lost it around the 60th minute when goalkeeper Erin Baker went down with an injury. Baker had made double-digit stops on the day, and Bentonville was able to string some scoring opportunities together in her absence.
The loss resonated with Heritage, and the team used it as motivation against Van Buren in the team's dominating 12-0 win last Friday.
"They wanted to come back and bounce back hard. They wanted to prove to themselves that they were ready for the next challenge, and they more than did it," Stover said. "It gave an opportunity for us to really focus on what we needed to improve on."
The team had multiple players score more than one goal in the game with junior forward Pam Seiler leading the team with three. Freshman midfielder Ally Ribar and junior midfielder Lanee Knight added two goals each in the win.
Heritage will play Bentonville West at 5:30 p.m. today with the boys' game coming after at 7:30 p.m. The Lady War Eagles will then be home again against Fayetteville at 7:30 p.m. Friday. The boys' team will play before them at 5:30 p.m.
Sports on 04/02/2019
Print Headline: PREP SOCCER REPORT