Tradition-rich Bryant missed the playoffs last spring for the first time since 2005. The Lady Hornets reached the state championship game five times in six seasons from 2014 to 2019, winning it all in 2015 and 2019.
Bryant (4-12-1 in 2022) started 10 underclassmen a year ago, including seven sophomores. A youthful squad began to build confidence mid-season despite losing nine of its first 10 league games. The Lady Hornets earned a hard-fought 1-0 win at Cabot in late April, and they needed to beat North Little Rock for a chance to make the playoffs but fell short in a 1-1 draw.
“They figured out they were capable of doing something great,” says third-year coach Olivia Organ (19-14-3 overall at Bryant). “The win at Cabot was everything we needed it to be.” Organ’s Hornets began off-season training on the first day of school in August.
A confident group enters 2023 with 10 returning starters, including junior goalkeeper Alexis Pablo. “She had a giant role to fill,” Organ says.
Two years ago, Pablo played behind Addison Funk, who recorded 79 saves during her senior season. “It was great having Addi as a role model,” says Organ, who was pleased with Pablo’s development. Seniors Grayson Johnson and Miranda Merkel train at goalkeeper.
Junior Karen Giron anchors the back line at center back. The ultra-competitive Giron earned a starting role two years ago as a freshman. “She commands the troops,” the coach says.
Bryant’s back line also features sophomore center back Emerson Hill, junior outside back Cameron Cathey and sophomore outside back Jenniver Vivar. Cathey assisted on a goal last year at Little Rock Southwest and shined in a narrow loss at Conway in the season finale.
Team captain Hannah Brewer transitioned last spring from center back to center midfielder. The tenacious senior finished second on the team with 10 points (four goals and two assists). “She does a very good job of not only directing traffic but being willing to step up when someone’s not where they need to be,” Organ says. “She wants what’s best for the team.”
Junior midfielder Lily Miller tracks back on defense, shifts into the attack, distributes the ball and communicates on the pitch. “She does a lot of the dirty work,” the coach says. Miller, who earned all-state honors in 2021 as a freshman, recorded two goals and five assists in 2022. Savvy junior Amelia Holley (three goals and two assists) returns at the other midfielder position.
Junior forward Kaylee Fluger paced the Lady Hornets a year ago with 17 points (six goals and five assists). “She keeps getting better every year,” Organ says. Fluger and Miller take the majority of Bryant’s free kicks and corners. The fearless Fluger scored the game-winning goal at Cabot.
Junior forward Julia Murray creates opportunities for Bryant with a strong left-footed cross, and she enjoys taking on defenders in space. Murray’s sister, Maggie, played on the 2019 state championship team. Sophomore forward Julie Johnson finished last spring with two goals and three assists. Vivar’s speed and ball skills give her the ability to contribute at forward when needed. Junior Kaci Ausbrooks helps up top.
The roster includes seniors Kate Chumley and Kiery Santamaria, junior Katie Corley and sophomores Lilly Wirzfeld, Haley Avila, Diana Ramirez and Leah Gusfors. Santamaria assisted on a goal last year at Little Rock Southwest. Thirteen freshmen joined the program this off-season, including nine club players. ⚽ Article written by Jeff Hall
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