Powell (7-10, 2-2 Northwest) qualified for state when they beat Torrington 1-0 in Lander on Saturday.
The level of competition will jump immediately and exponentially in Jackson.
The Buffalo Bison (8-4, 4-0 Northeast) enter the tournament as the third-ranked team in the state. And when the Bison have won, they’ve won big.
Only once — a 3-1 victory over Worland May 15 — have the Bison won by less than four goals. In their seven others wins, the Bison have prevailed by four, eight, four, five (against Powell), 10, four and seven goals.
Buffalo’s Rileigh Olsen scored 24 goals this season — the most in 3A and 44 percent of her team’s 54 goals.
PHS head coach Isaac Reyesmejia told his team during a Tuesday afternoon practice that if Buffalo wins, it won’t be because of Olsen.
The Bison average 4.15 goals per game and boast the third-best goal differential (+31) in the state. Both figures reflect Buffalo’s high-powered offense, but are skewed slightly by their blowout wins. Buffalo scored a total of just seven goals in four losses.
The PHS girls lost big (6-1) in their home matchup with the Bison, but they needn’t look farther than their Northwest Quadrant rivals to find some hope.
Worland, which split two games with the Panthers this season, held the Bison to three goals in Buffalo’s narrowest win of the season.
Cody, which was also 1-1 against Powell, beat Buffalo 4-2 on April 5, two days before barely beating Powell in 3-2. The Panthers turned around to get the first-ever win against the Fillies 1-0 April 22.
It’s pretty clear the Panthers can’t win a shootout with the Bison. That’s not their style. But if Powell’s defense plays to its potential, the Panthers could steal a 1-0 or 2-1 game. Buffalo is a team that can be (and has been) stopped.
If the Panthers pull off the upset, they will play the winner of Jackson vs. Lander at 2 p.m. Friday. A loss would send them to the consolation bracket to play the loser of that game at 9 a.m. Friday.
The top-ranked Lander Tigers are the tournament’s heavy favorites after twice shutting out the Broncs (3-0 April 12 and 5-0 May 6) and amassing a 3A-best 63 goals through 15 games.
Lander’s lone defeat came in a 3-2 shootout loss against Class 4A’s No. 2 Green River (17-1, 10-0 Western Conference).
The Tigers beat Powell 3-0 in Lander May 2.
Holding Lander to three goals is a feat in itself. Scoring against the Tigers, however, has proved near impossible. Only four teams this season have scored against Lander, which has a state-best +58 goal differential.
Host Jackson, the Panthers’ likely opponent should they lose against Buffalo, would provide a winnable game en route to the consolation finals.
Powell lost a 1-0 game in Jackson May 10 in the type of performance it will have to avoid at state. The defense allowed a single first-half goal and the offense failed to provide an answer.
Jackson’s 30 goals in 15 games this season is a far cry from the offensive firepower Buffalo and Lander are capable of, and it could fall on the Panther defense to lead the team to a low-scoring win.
Junior Aimee Kawano, arguably Powell’s best ball-handler, battled illness in the days leading up to today’s state opener but will be in Jackson for the girls, Reyesmejia said.
The PHS offense, if it is unable to rely on Kawano’s creativity in the middle, likely will run through the wings to give Panthers Shelby Nicholson, Haley Wichman, Rebecca Pratt, Jourdyn Haire and others a chance to generate shots.
The Panthers were scheduled to leave for Jackson at 5:30 a.m. today (Thursday).
Forecasts call for clear skies in Jackson all tournament-long with morning temperatures between 40 and 60 degrees and afternoon temperatures from the low-60s to low-70s.
|PHS girls' soccer schedule|
|29||Star Valley|| 3-1 L
|4||Worland|| 3-2 L
|7||Cody|| 3-2 L
|11||Worland Invite|| 1 W, 1 L
|12||Worland Invite|| 2 Wins
|22||Cody|| 1-0 W
|25||Buffalo|| 6-1 L
|26||Jackson|| 2-1 L
|2||Lander|| 3-0 L
|3||Pinedale|| 3-0 W
|8||Worland|| 1-0 W
|9||Star Valley|| 3-0 L
|10||Jackson|| 1-0 L
| Overall Record: 7-10; Conference: 2-2