Lady Panthers earn honors

Benton junior Julia Dick competes in the 6A state title game recently. Dick and freshman Emma Selph earned 6A All-State honors for their performances this season. TONY LENAHAN/The Saline CourierBenton freshman Emma Selph competes in the 6A state title game recently. Selph was named 6A state All-State. TONY LENAHAN/The Saline Courier
Tony Lenahan
Sports Editor

After a historic season for the Benton Lady Panthers soccer team, a plethora of Lady Panthers were honored for their roles in Benton’s first ever 6A state title game appearance in which the Lady Panthers fell just short of a championship with a 1-0 loss to 6A powerhouse and defending champion Siloam Springs.
Two Lady Panthers, freshman Emma Selph and junior Julia Dick, were named All-State, while plenty of other Lady Panthers earned All-Conference honors.
Just a freshman, Selph earned All-State after tying the single-season record in goals with 26, scoring a season-high four against Sheridan. Selph also added 10 assists on the year.
“Emma did a great job all year and really stepped in and asserted herself early on,” Benton Coach Jason Gentry said. “She’s a very selfless player that created multiple opportunities for others to succeed. Emma played a key role in our success with her ability to play multiple positions.”
Dick scored on over half of her shots on goal, coming away with 18 goals on just 34 shots (53 percent), doubling her sophomore year total and moving into third all-time at Benton with 38 career goals. Dick added 13 assists this season and Gentry noted how several coaches commented that Dick was the heartbeat of the team.
“Julia is the leader on the field,” Gentry said. “She’s worked incredibly hard and it shows. Her work ethic is second-to-none and she is the most coachable player I’ve ever been around. I’ll always remember Julia hitting the game-winning header vs. Mountain Home to send us to the final.”  
Dick, senior keeper Jayme Selph and junior Annah Kate Smith would also make the All-State Tournament Team.
The Lady Panthers, which finished 16-5 overall, also had 10 total All-Conference selections, with five making First-Team All-Conference.
Junior Kinley Ritter had 10 goals and broke a single-season school record with 19 assists this year, putting her career-record total at 49. Ritter broke her own single-season assists record of 17 last year.
Smith had 18 goals on just 33 shots on goal this year. Holding a single-season school-record tie in goals with Emma Selph with 26 goals last year, Smith holds Benton’s career record with 55 goals in three seasons as a Lady Panther.
Also earning first-team honors was junior center back Halle Stringer, who scored two goals and had multiple game-changing plays in the semifinals, junior center back Kati Morrow, who missed several games due to injury but was pivotal on the defensive line, and junior outside back Hattie Mahoney, who had three goals and also created multiple scoring opportunities by connecting with strikers up the field.
Taking Second-Team All-Conference honors was junior Emily Smith (10 goals, seven assists), senior Abbey Lee (nine goals, five assists), sophomore Adrianna Baber (consistent defender), junior Madison McVey (five goals) and junior keeper Rylie Davis, who stepped in for injured senior keeper Jayme Selph and had 18 saves in nine shutouts, allowing just two goals on 20 shots.
Speaking of Jayme Selph, the three-year captain missed most of the season with injury and came back to make the All-State Tournament Team for her performance late. For her career, the University of Central Arkansas signee finished 35-16 with 19 shutouts and 226 saves.
As a team, the Lady Panthers scored the second most goals in school history with 118 (120 in 2017), outscoring their district opponents 70-0. Seventeen different players scored goals, with five scoring 10 or more. There were 64 team assists, with three dishing out 10 or more.
Benton earned their first semifinal win ever and made its first state final.