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Panther soccer teams fall to Lander

Powell High School girls’ soccer coach Brett Hanlin could only shake his head on Tuesday afternoon. He’d just watched his Panthers dominate play for many of the 80 minutes, but fall by a 1-0 count to Lander.

Two hours later, Powell boys’ coach Travis Rapp felt pretty much the same way.

“I don’t even know what to say,” Rapp said after the Panther boys also lost by a 1-0 final count. “We played hard. We played well. We’re just not finishing our opportunities when we have them.”

As afternoon winds kicked up, the boys’ game became a tale of two halves. Powell endured a defensive first half as they played into the teeth of the breeze. While the Panthers were able to generate a couple offense chances, much of the first 40 minutes was spent in Powell’s defensive zone as possession time strongly favored the Tigers.

That all changed as the teams exchanged ends of the field. With the wind at their backs, the Panthers were able to generate more chances with downfield passes and longer shot attempts.

Despite the increased opportunities, Powell was unable to remove a scoreless tie from the scoreboard. Eventually, Lander was able to break through.

The Tigers played a crossing pass from the left corner tight across the mouth of the Panthers’ goal. Keeper John Kissner made a leaping attempt to deflect the ball, but had it bounce off his hand, off the inside of the side post of the goal and into the net.

“John made a play on the ball,” Rapp said. “From where I was standing, I thought it had gone between his hands into the net, but I guess he actually touched it and had it deflect into goal.”

The Panthers put significant pressure on Lander’s defense in the closing 15 minutes of the contest. Dylan Ulmer had Powell’s best look at goal, running on to a pass from midfield ahead of a Lander doubleteam and sending a shot off the cross bar high. Ulmer also had a shot veer wide of the goal in the waning minutes of the game.

The Panthers also had a corner kick and a free kick opportunity deep in Lander’s defensive zone as they attempted to tie the contest and force overtime. In both cases, kicks were off the mark.

“It’s just a mental hurdle that we have to get past,” Rapp said of the game. “We’re doing everything we’ve been talking about, except putting the ball in the back of the net.”

To that end, the Panther coach said he plans to mix things up on Friday when the team travels to Pinedale for its next game.

“We’re going to move some people around and try to boost our offense and see what happens,” Rapp said. “We’re going to give it a shot and see if it’s better. I definitely feel we’re a team that’s playing better than our record.”

The Panthers slid to 2-9 with the loss.

As bitter as the taste in Rapp’s mouth may have been on Tuesday, Hanlin and the members of the Panther girls’ soccer program may be able to one-up it. Powell arguably played its best offensive game of the season and finished with nothing to show for it on the scoreboard.

“I thought we played well,” Hanlin said. “We had a lot of opportunities. We just weren’t able to score.”

The Panthers had plenty of chances, especially in the first half when Powell’s forwards and midfielders were consistently arriving at the ball a step faster than their Lander counterparts. Despite multiple shots from inside the goal box by the Panthers, Lander netted the game’s only goal.

The Tigers scored off a corner kick after the team successfully overloaded the central zone in front of the net. The goal allowed Lander to sag an extra defender back throughout the second half, cutting down the number of Panther chances to equalize on the scoreboard.

“Our passing has been improving, both in this game and the Cody game last Friday,” Hanlin said. “We’ll just keep working to improve.”

The Panther girls slid to 2-8-1 with the loss. Both Powell teams travel to Pinedale on Friday before continuing on to Jackson on Saturday.

The Panther teams wrap up the regular season with their final Northwest quadrant games at Worland on Tuesday.

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