“Holding them scoreless in the first half was huge,” said Panther girls’ coach Brett Hanlin. “The girls did a good job of playing defense while the wind was helping Worland. We made some nice stops. Then in the second half, the wind shifted and was coming straight down the field behind us and that really helped.”
Playing into the teeth of the wind, Worland was rarely able to clear the ball from its half of the field. Even tasks as routine as attempting to clear the ball from the penalty area on a goal kick turned into challenges in the blustery conditions. On one occasion, play had to be whistled to a stop when a gust of wind caught the ball midair, sending it arcing backward to the end line before it traversed the 12-yard distance needed to clear the penalty area.
“Obviously, it had an effect on what both teams were able to do playing into the wind,” said Hanlin.
With virtually no risk of being beat by a long pass over their heads, Panther defenders were able to spend much of the game’s final 40 minutes camped out along the midfield line. Midfielders were able to slide forward into attacking positions and the Panthers’ forwards were left drooling with every opportunity at net.
The relentless pressure finally took its toll in the 63rd minute. The Panthers’ Haley Wichman was in the right place at the right time to have the wind knock down a punt from the Warriors’ goalkeeper near her feet. After a touch, Wichman sent a low shot just inside the left post to give the Panthers the first score of the game.
Wichman added to the Panthers’ lead roughly 10 minutes later. Playing the ball in on a corner kick, the Panther junior pounded the ball off the near post, sending the ball rolling back toward her. Wichman ran onto the rolling ball, playing her second kick a little wider from the mouth of the goal, allowing both the spin and the howling wind to curve it inside the far post and into the side of the net for the Panthers’ second goal of the game.
The Warriors were unable to generate an attacking chance in the final eight minutes playing against the wind.
“We looked like a much improved team out there today,” Hanlin said. “All the little things we’d been doing well came back today. We passed the ball, we moved around. I’m proud of the way the girls performed.”
The victory lifts Powell back to a .500 record at 6-6-1 for the season. The Panthers are assured of the No. 2 seed in the Northwest quadrant. They will face the No. 3 team out of the Northeast quadrant, likely Newcastle (1-8-2) next week in a play-in game for the state tournament in Jackson. The Panther girls travel to Star Valley on Friday before wrapping up the regular season in Jackson on Saturday.
Due to the deteriorating weather conditions, the opening kick of the Powell-Worland boys’ soccer game never took place. Increasing winds and the threat of approaching rain prompted school officials to again postpone the contest. The teams will attempt to play the game today (Thursday) at 6 p.m. There will not be a junior varsity game.
The first scheduled meeting between Powell and Worland at Panther Stadium was postponed in April due to snowfall.