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New coach, new attitude for girls’ soccer

PHS senior Sonya Montanez extends her arm to make a save during a March 11 practice. PHS senior Sonya Montanez extends her arm to make a save during a March 11 practice. Tribune photo by Dante Geoffrey

Seniors counted on for additional leadership  

The Powell High School girls’ soccer team will begin the 2014 season, and a new era, Saturday with more questions than answers.

Head coach Isaac Reyesmejia took over the coaching duties less than two weeks ago and must still determine what formation the Panthers will run, who will play where and what this team’s strengths and weaknesses are.

Heck, he’s still getting a handle on more than two dozen names.

But as coach and team continue to get to know each other, their chances at success will grow. And though much work has to be done between now and the postseason, Reyesmejia wants more than a perfunctory appearance at state.

“If we make it to state I want to make a run,” Reyesmejia said. “I think that’s doable. I think there is a lot of upside with the juniors and sophomores and some freshmen that look very promising.”

The seniors will have to be extensions of himself, Reyesmejia said.

“They’re a mature group that understands the game,” Reyesmejia said. “The seniors are and should be the most outspoken ones. They’ve had more time on the field.”

Practices have been lively so far, with lots of encouragement being given amongst the players.

“It’s good to see that they’re working as a team,” Reyesmejia said. “That’s definitely a good sign.”

The pre-season evaluation process has been brief for Reyesmejia, who led two practices last week before traveling to Casper with the Cody High School boys’ basketball team on March 12 as an assistant coach.

Reyesmejia returned to the PHS girls on Monday.

“I’m still kind of looking at the players I have,” the coach said. “I think each player is going to bring something to the team.”

The Panthers, who were 8-10-1 overall and 2-2 in Class 3A Northwest, will look to improve their eighth-ranked offense with the return of their top two attackers.

Senior Haley Wichman returns for the Panthers after leading the squad with 10 goals and four assists in 2013.

“Haley has a cannon for a leg,” Reyesmejia said. “Probably the strongest leg on the team.”

Junior Aimee Kawano netted four goals last season and has already impressed her coach with her ability to control the ball.

“She definitely has some good handling skills,” Reyesmejia said.

Seniors Cassy and Kellie Vezain, of Rocky Mountain High School, are bringing their talents to the PHS program.

“They’re pretty good soccer players,” Reyesmejia said.

Aside from identifying some basic skills, Reyesmejia is a long way away from committing to a starting lineup. Those who start Saturday against Pinedale won’t necessarily start the following week.

“It will be very interesting,” the coach said. “I want to make sure I have the best 11 players on the roster out there on Saturday.”

But regardless of who plays when and where, Reyesmejia wants his players to play a certain style, and forge an identity for Powell girls’ soccer.

“I want them to be on attack mode every second that clock strikes,” the coach said. “You got a pretty wide field, you gotta use every inch of it.”

Though defensive-minded by nature, the coach said he’s noticed at least four players that are offensive-oriented and can help wear down opposing defenses, while a handful of others have looked “good at protecting the net and playing defense.”

Senior Sonya Montanez will start in goal for the Panthers. Montanez takes over for the graduated Alyssa Hildebrand, who recorded 38 saves for Powell, which allowed the sixth-fewest goals in Class 3A last season.

Reyesmejia has yet to name captains, but will be keeping an astute eye open to those who demonstrate a natural ability to lead.

“I personally just like to look out there and see who leads,” Reyesmejia said. “As a leader in the Army I’ve learned how to groom and train and motivate some of our country’s finest young people.”

Seniors will have an advantage, but Reyesmejia said he won’t hesitate to give captaincy to an outspoken, deserving junior.

While his attention will obviously be focused on the Panther varsity team, Reyesmejia wants to make sure he has a long-term plan as well.

“You definitely need to groom and build those players up on JV,” he said.

The next era of Powell girls’ soccer begins at 11 a.m. Saturday at Panther Stadium.

“All the questions that I have ... we’ll get them answered come Saturday,” Reyesmejia said. “As a coach it’s always good to start with a win. It would help the players to go, ‘Wow, that feels pretty good.’”


PHS girls' soccer schedule
  22   Pinedale   11 a.m.
  28   Jackson   3 p.m.
  29   Star Valley   11 a.m.
  3   Cody   4 p.m.
  4   Worland   3 p.m.
  11   Green River Invite   TBA
  12   Green River Invite   TBA
  22   Cody   4 p.m.
  25   Buffalo   5 p.m.
  29   Worland   4 p.m.
  2   Lander   4 p.m.
  3   Pinedale   11 a.m.
  9   Star Valley   4 p.m.
  10   Jackson   11 a.m.
  22-24   STATE   TBA
  *Shaded box denotes home games

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