CONWAY -- Bentonville West made sure it came out on the right side of things this time around against Little Rock Catholic.
The Wolverines, the No. 6 seed from the 6A-West, got a goal from Collin Higgins five minutes in and made it stand in beating the third-seeded Rockets 1-0 on Thursday in the first round of the Class 6A boys state soccer tournament at McConnell Stadium.
"What a difference a year made," Bentonville West Coach John Marshall said. "We saw these guys last year, and we were able to turn things around a little. I thought we played well throughout and were able to put some pressure on them."
That constant duress allowed Bentonville West (11-9) to flip the script in a match that was eerily similar to the one the teams played during last year's state tournament. The teams were seeded the same as they were in their 2018 meeting, but it was Catholic (13-6) that got an early goal and made it stand in the opening round. In the rematch, the Wolverines struck first and parlayed that into their first-ever postseason victory.
"We had some chances," said Catholic Coach Ryan Lawrence, whose team lost all six of its games this season by one goal each. "I thought we played well actually. [Bentonville West] had four back and two holding midfielders. ... they had a lot of players behind the ball and it just became tough for us to find space."
Higgins found the back of the net quickly for the Wolverines, who will play 6A-West rival Rogers in the quarterfinals at noon today. The junior nailed a shot between three Catholic players from 15 yards out to provide Bentonville West with the only score it needed with 35 minutes to go in the first half. Higgins nearly had another goal 26 minutes later, but his attempt was knocked away by Catholic goalkeeper Sean Colleran at the last second.
The Rockets, who had won their previous four games, were aggressive at the start but couldn't get shots to find the net. Catholic had two attempts hit the bar and two others sail just wide of the goal within the game's first 10 minutes. They continued to press the issue after halftime, only to come away empty.
"We didn't allow them to get any easy shots," Marshall said. "I did think they controlled a lot of the balls, and we were trying to do some counter-attacks. But Collin's goal early really allowed us to settle in and just play our game."...