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Lady Panthers fall short in Worland

Lady Panther Michele Wagner attempts a corner kick against Rawlins Friday at the Pinnacle Challenge Cup in Worland. Wagner scored both goals for Powell in the 2-0 win. Lady Panther Michele Wagner attempts a corner kick against Rawlins Friday at the Pinnacle Challenge Cup in Worland. Wagner scored both goals for Powell in the 2-0 win. Tribune photo by Carla Wensky

The Lady Panther soccer team traveled to Worland over the weekend, going 1-3 at the Pinnacle Challengers Cup to finish in eighth place.

Powell opened the tournament early Friday afternoon with a 2-0 win over Rawlins. The Lady Panthers played 4A Rock Springs later that day, with the eventual Pinnacle Cup champion Lady Tigers earning a hard-fought 3-1 win. Saturday saw Powell drop a pair of games—a 1-0 loss to Star Valley and a 5-1 loss to Buffalo.

“Overall, I thought we played well,” said Lady Panthers head coach Jack Haire. “Even though our record doesn’t reflect that, we played really strong. I was proud of our effort.”

Lady Panthers 2, Rawlins 0

Representing the 3A Southeast Quadrant, Rawlins (3-4-1) played the Lady Panthers strong in the first half. Despite a number of scoring opportunities, the game was still scoreless at halftime.

“We came out to a very good Rawlins team,” Haire said of Powell’s opening match. “They’re a tough bunch.”

The Lady Panthers (4-4) broke the scoring open in the second half on a pair of goals by forward Michele Wagner. The first was the result of a penalty kick while Wagner’s second goal “was just an awesome shot,” Haire said. “She had a really solid game.”

Haire said the team started off a little sloppy in the first half, but by the second had begun putting things together and played as a team.

“I really challenged the girls to step up their game, as they had Rock Springs next,” Haire said. “We knew that was going to be a tough test, as they were ranked third in 4A.”

Rock Springs 3, Lady Panthers 1

Haire said Powell played a “phenomenal game” against the Lady Tigers (7-1), in a game that easily could have gone either way.

“We played such a good game against Rock Springs,” Haire said. “Jaya [Smith] made a great run on the keeper off a Joey Haire pass and placed a shot on the corner of the net out of the keeper’s range. It was a great goal by an experienced player.”

Smith’s goal was the only one Rock Springs allowed the entire tournament. Rock Springs answered with a pair of goals to take a 2-1 halftime lead. While Powell continued to move the ball well and create opportunities, they couldn’t find the back of the net.

Haire swapped keepers at the half, but after a quick Rock Springs score, the coach switched back to starter Sydney Olsen.

“... Our defense stepped up, Sydney [Olsen] stepped up and we held them scoreless the remainder of the game,” Haire said.

Haire added the team had some very makable shots that just missed.

“We had our opportunities, and we looked very, very good against Rock Springs,” he said, adding, “We went home Friday evening tired and beat up, but pleased.”

Star Valley 1, Lady Panthers 0

Powell’s first game Saturday was a heartbreaker for the Lady Panthers as they had hoped to avenge a 4-0 loss against Star Valley (5-3) from earlier in the season.

The game was a stalemate until the final minutes of regulation, when the Lady Braves snuck in a goal to break the tie and win the game.

“We looked excellent against Star Valley; we were dominating the game,” Haire said. “It was 0-0 at halftime, and we had a lot of shots on goal. Both teams were tired and beat up, but they both played strong throughout.”

Lady Panther forward Kayla Kolpitcke, dinged up from the previous day’s game against Rock Springs, didn’t start Saturday’s contest against Star Valley, but when she finally got in the game, she made her presence felt..

“Kayla [Kolpitcke] had gone home Friday night, and her knee had swelled up so bad, you couldn’t see her kneecap,” Haire explained. “She showed up the next day ready to play, the swelling was gone. She had a good warmup, but I didn’t start her. I put her in the game about eight minutes in and she immediately made an impact.”

Scoring opportunities continued in the second half, but Powell couldn’t capitalize.

“We just couldn’t put one in,” Haire said. “We were just missing, or the shot would be just soft enough for the keeper to get a finger on it to push it around the post. It was so frustrating for the girls.”

With just under five minutes to play in the game, Star Valley netted their goal and held on for the win.

“That was tough because we played great,” Haire said. “Just couldn’t find the back of the net.”

Buffalo 5, Lady Panthers 1

The Lady Panthers were running on fumes, physically and emotionally, by the time they squared off against Buffalo (2-6-1) Saturday afternoon, falling to the Lady Bison 5-1 to close out the tournament.

“Buffalo is good, holy smokes,” Haire said. “What’s crazy about them is, they haven’t won a lot of games, but that’s because they play Thunder Basin, they play Campbell County, they play Sheridan and Cheyenne. The whole first half of their schedule has been all 4A teams.”

Wagner scored Powell’s lone goal for the game, giving her three on the weekend.

The Lady Panthers now plan to heal up and prepare to host a pair of home games. Powell welcomes Douglas (7-2) to Panther Stadium Friday, and then a rematch against Worland is scheduled for Monday.

“We need to watch out for Worland; we made them mad,” Haire said, referring to Powell’s 5-0 win over Worland on March 27. “If we win that game, we lock up second place [in the 3A Northwest Quadrant] before we ever touch Cody. That’s a rare opportunity. That’s a goal game for us.”

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