Senior striker Eric Bentley will go for a state scoring record and Central Arkansas Christian will try to better its 2013 finish in the Class 4A State Soccer Tournament at Burns Park starting Friday.
Bentley broke the school record for single-season scoring Monday, improving the previous mark of 38 goals to 41 in a 7-0 weather-shortened win at Gurdon. He will enter the state tournament two short of the state record of 43.
“If he plays well and we continue like we’ve been playing, he’ll be breaking the state record,” coach Fabian Mina said. “I’ve got a pretty good feeling. The kids are feeling strong and coming together now. They’re pretty consistent.”
The Mustangs finished state runner-up to Valley View last year, falling on penalty kicks in the championship. They enter the tournament 12-2-2, having won 12 of their last 13 games, including the win at Gurdon on Monday that was called at halftime.They tied Hope on April 21, 1-1, for the only blemish on that winning streak.
CAC is the host for the state tournament.
The Mustangs will open play at 4 p.m. on Field 7 against Crowley’s Ridge Academy, fourth seed from the 3-4A. Should they win, they would move on to Saturday’ss 2 p.m. semifinal against the winner of Hamburg, second seed from the 4-4A, and Danville, No. 3 from the 1-4A.
Potentially looming in Monday’s noon semifinal is Maumelle, which won the 3-4A and owns a 2-1 victory over the Mustangs on March 17 — the last time CAC lost. Semifinal winners will advance to the state championship at the University of Arkansas at 4 p.m. Saturday, May 24.
Mina said his team had improved significantly since the early loss to the Hornets.
“The kids are growing up,” he said. “Also, they had some lucky goals. We were winning 1-0 in the beginning. We’ll get them back. I think we’ve gotten a lot better. It’ll be a totally different game.”
CAC lost to Little Rock Catholic and tied Little Rock Christian on March 17 and has nearly run the table since. Among the wins have been wallopings of 2-4A foes: Pulaski Robinson, 9-0; Benton Harmony Grove, 11-0; Wickes, 7-0; Arkansas Baptist, 8-0; Centerpoint, 6-0; Malvern, 7-0; and Mena, 10-1, before Gurdon on Monday.
Mina said the Mustangs were ready to prove themselves in the postseason.
“The whole team is all coming together strong,” he said. “Finally, the kids know what I want and how they need to be playing at this level. They are coming in strong for the state tournament.”