PHS (0-3 overall, 0-1 in conference) came out flat and Worland was out to a 2-0 lead before the first quarter of the game had elapsed.
“We weren’t doing what we practiced,” said PHS head coach Isaac Reyesmejia. “We were just kind of sitting back.”
The coach said his players looked hesitant, despite his instructions to make assertive plays, free from fear.
“I’ve told them from Day One I’ve given them the free rein to take a shot if they have it,” Reyesmejia said.
At times Powell looked as if it had little idea what it wanted to do with the ball, and instead of passing with purpose, the ball was kicked forward as if the passer hoped it ended up in possession of a teammate.
“They were just kind of holding back (in the first half),” Reyesmejia said.
But the Panthers regrouped, kept Worland away from their net, seized control of the game’s momentum and tied the score at 2-2.
“I would say it was night and day,” Reyesmejia said of the two halves. “The girls definitely came out stronger in the second half.”
Junior Jourdyn Haire paced the Panthers’ offense with her speed on the right wing, and eventually broke through the Worland defense with Powell’s first goal 15 minutes into the second half.
Junior center-mid Aimee Kawano, who drew a foul on the left edge of the penalty area, used a free kick to pass the ball to Haire, who buried it into the back of the Warrior net.
Powell kept the pressure on and scored its equalizer with 17 minutes left in the game. The roles of the first PHS goal were reversed, with Kawano scoring on the setup from Haire.
Haire raced down the right flank and sent a cross into a crowded goalie box. The ball, as it often does, wound up on Kawano’s foot and stayed there until there was no one between her and her third goal of the season.
“Jourdyn has speed. She can get up that line and cross that ball,” Reyesmejia said. “That’s the way I want to run our offense.”
A game that once looked like it would be an easy victory for the home squad was now in the hands of the visiting Panthers.
“It’s ours to win, ladies!” Reyesmejia shouted to his players after Kawano’s goal.
It was Powell’s for the taking, but the goals made were outnumbered by the near-goals and near-misses, the most agonizing of which came just a minute before Worland scored its go-ahead tally.
In the midst of a furious Powell rally during which the ball stayed in the Worland zone, senior Shelby Nicholson unleashed a line drive from five yards beyond the box that hit the bottom half of the crossbar and bounced straight down, but out of the WHS net.
Nicholson’s try came after Haire had two shots on goal and senior Haley Wichman had another.
Wichman had at least two shots, and Haire at least one, that were visibly altered by Worland’s field. Reyesmejia said the grass was “way longer than it’s supposed to be” for soccer and that it caused the ball to skip.
Wichman was set up nicely for a first-half one-timer but the pass skipped over her swinging foot and the Worland defense recovered before Wichman could fire off a shot.
Down 3-2, the Panthers had just a few minutes to try to find another tying goal. They had three throw-ins deep in the Worland zone but couldn’t convert them into any legitimate scoring chances.
Both Worland goals were scored on PHS keeper Sonya Montanez, who left the game after she was called for a penalty for rolling the ball outside of the box. Montanez also did what she could to keep the Panthers within two scores when she made a hard save in the 24th minute.
Freshman Gabby Hirsch played the second half in place of Montanez, and impressed her coach in her only action of the season.
“She definitely showed a lot of aggression, that was something big,” Reyesmejia said.
Her aggression and inexperience, though, took her out of position to save what would be Worland’s game-winner.
A long ball that got behind junior fullback Delaney Dent sent a Warrior forward all alone toward the Panther net, forcing Hirsch to make a decision.
“She came out and her initial instinct was to charge the player, but unfortunately she got caught up in that thought and she started backpedaling,” Reyesmejia said. “But when she started backpedaling it was too late.”
The Warrior attacker kicked a high arcing shot over Hirsch, who wasn’t far enough out of the goal to cut off the shooter’s angle or close enough to protect the mouth of the goal, that one-hopped into the net for a score.
“(Hirsch is) a young player,” Reyesmejia said. “And as a young player you’re going to make mistakes.”
The coach also pointed out that Hirsch, whom he described as having “nerves of steel,” was put in a challenging situation.
“There’s a lot of things that happened that led to that play,” he said.
Every Panther on the field looked as if they felt the effects of the gut-punching goal. Hands were placed on heads as if to say, “How did that happen?”
Reyesmejia said he and his team can’t dwell on the bad, but must learn and move on.
“I have short-term memory when it comes to stuff like that,” the coach said.
The takeaway from Worland was that the Panthers came back, had a chance to win, and proved they can compete against a Northwest opponent.
“You’re going to have some games that are going to break like that,” Reyesmejia said. “(But) if you put yourself in the position where you can be in the game you don’t really beat yourself up mentally.
“I know we can play with every team out there,” the coach asserted. “And I know the girls know that. We’re past the believing point. We’re in the ‘we know’ point.”
The girls played Cody Monday afternoon after press time. For that game’s score please visit www.facebook.com/powelltribune and see Thursday’s print edition for the full game story.