“What a disappointing week of soccer,” Rapp said. “We feel like we are a top five team. We play like we are a top five team, now it is time for us to start beating these top five teams we are playing.”
The Panthers gave winning their best shot at second-ranked Lander. The Panthers watched a pair of shots ricochet off the frame of the goal. A third shot beat the Lander keeper, only to be headed off the goal line by a Tiger defender to preserve the shut out.
“Most absolute domination by a losing team,” Rapp said of the performance. “We held possession for a majority of the game. We took shots, defended well, won 50-50 balls — we just couldn’t get the ball into the back of the net.”
That frustration continued on Saturday against Park County rival Cody.
Aided by a blustery south wind, the Panthers maintained possession in their offensive zone for a majority of the first half. Powell outshot the Broncs by a 6-3 count in those early minutes as Rapp again endured watching one Panther shot strike the side post of the goal while another caromed off the cross bar.
As a result, the Panthers trailed 1-0 at the intermission.
In the second half, with the wind in their face, the Panthers failed to match Cody’s attack. Powell surrendered four second-half goals to suffer their worst loss of the season.
“We started strong, but made some key mistakes defensively,” said Rapp. “If we give up 15 to 25 shots a game, it will always be tough to win. This game was closer than the 5-0 score. We just aren’t finishing on our end and we’re giving up mistakes on the defensive end.”
Saturday’s loss to Cody also represents the Panthers’ first game in Northwest quadrant play. Powell is now 1-5 overall and 0-1 in quadrant play that will be used for regional and state tournament seeding.
While the early schedule has been brutal for the Panthers, with games against the No. 1, 2 and 4 teams in the state rankings, it gets no easier. The Panthers host No. 5 Worland today (Tuesday) in another Northwest quadrant game.
Following the game, the Panthers will be off for more than a week before resuming play against — yes, another ranked opponent — No. 3 Jackson on April 15.
“The boys are playing good, buying into the system and playing the game correctly,” Rapp said. “We have a lot of games between now and state, but we need to start putting away some of these opponents.”