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Girls’ soccer season ends with ‘epic battle’

PHS senior Shelby Nicholson beats her defender down the left sideline during a 1-0 Powell win over Worland April 29. Nicholson and the Panthers’ offense mounted a near-comeback against Cody in the Class 3A state tournament in Jackson over the weekend. PHS senior Shelby Nicholson beats her defender down the left sideline during a 1-0 Powell win over Worland April 29. Nicholson and the Panthers’ offense mounted a near-comeback against Cody in the Class 3A state tournament in Jackson over the weekend. Tribune photo by Dante Geoffrey

The PHS girls’ soccer team again extended its season in improbable fashion but ultimately was eliminated in two games at the Class 3A state tournament in Jackson over the weekend.

The Panthers (7-12, 2-2 Northwest) lost 3-0 to Buffalo in the first round Thursday and then 3-2 (5-4) in a consolation round game with Cody on Friday that was decided by a shootout.

“It was definitely an epic battle, to say the least,” said PHS head coach Isaac Reyesmejia.

Powell trailed Cody 2-0 with just three minutes to play before goals by Aimee Kawano and Haley Wichman sent the game into overtime.

The Panthers and Fillies, both tired after two games in two days, played 20 scoreless minutes of extra time and went into a five-player shootout. Each team scored on its first three attempts, had its fourth attempt blocked and missed its fifth attempt. The shootout then entered sudden death.

Both teams scored on their sixth shot, but when Powell missed its seventh it opened the door for a Cody win. The Fillies made their shot and advanced to the consolation finals.

The PHS season ended with the game, but to come back from down two goals late in the game was an accomplishment in itself, Reyesmejia said.

Down two goals in the 77th minute, Powell was awarded a corner kick. The kick bounced between Shelby Nicholson and Aimee Kawano a couple times before Kawano was able to bury it in the Cody net.

“When we scored that first goal we felt like we had a breath of life,” Reyesmejia said. “(We) kept pressing, don’t give up.”

The Filly lead was cut in half, but the clock stopped once the game entered the 78th minute. Powell didn’t know how much stoppage time they had to work with, but it wasn’t much.

The Panthers kept pressing and drew a Cody penalty about 35 yards away from the goal. Wichman was set to take the direct kick from near the PHS bench when Reyesmejia told her to “go for the top right corner.”

She went for it, and hit it.

“Haley takes probably the best kick, the best spin, and just drills the top right-hand corner of the goal,” Reyesmejia said.

The coach said Wichman’s goal created a euphoric scene on the PHS sideline.

“We just kept screaming,” Reyesmejia said.

The Panthers would find out after the game that only two seconds remained on the clock when Wichman’s game-tying goal went in.

Freshman goalkeeper Gabby Hirsch made 14 saves.

Powell started the game slow and allowed Cody to establish an early lead, which Powell wasn’t able to match.

“We didn’t connect on earlier opportunities,” Reyesmejia said.

The offense had even more trouble connecting in a shutout loss to the Bison in round 1.

“Our girls tried really hard to score; it just didn’t come together for us,” Reyesmejia said. “We were in some good corner-kick opportunities, we just didn’t finish when we needed to.”

The defense played well, however, and kept the game closer than the 6-1 loss to Buffalo on April 25.

“Buffalo is a high-scoring offense. They have the best scorer in the league,” Reyesmejia said. “My defense really held tight. I’m really proud of those girls on the back line.”

Hirsch made 14 saves on 17 shots on goal.

The three-goal loss was a sign the Panthers aren’t yet on par with the league’s best, but are closer than they were at midseason.

“We were better prepared for Buffalo. We were better prepared for what they were going to bring to us,” Reyesmejia said. “We didn’t feel like we were out of it until it was over.”

The coach said the team should pride itself on the growth it achieved between the season’s start and now.

“You have to be able to measure success by how much you learned and how much you improved,” Reyesmejia said. “I’m really proud of these girls and the way they fought.

“I think we put together something really good this year. No regrets on anything. It was definitely a good season.”

The All-State and All-Conference lists for Class 3A were not released as of press time Wednesday.

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