Lady Panthers fall to Cody in OT

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The Powell High School girls soccer team gave the No. 1 team in the state all they could handle in Cody Tuesday afternoon before falling to the Fillies in overtime 2-1.

The Lady Panthers (4-6-1, 1-2) slowed the potent Cody offense for much of the game, using a couple of different defensive formations to keep the Fillies (10-1, 3-0) off balance,

“I thought we played outstanding as a team; the ball was moved around well,” said PHS head coach Jack Haire. “Defensively, our strategy worked.”

A scary moment in the first half briefly set the Lady Panthers on their heels, as defender Joey Haire went shin-to-shin with a Cody opponent and had to be carried off the field.

“She [Joey Haire] had injured the same leg a few games ago, and has just been icing it and dealing with it,” coach Haire said. “She went shin-to-shin on that same spot. She plays a very important role against very fast girls who are trying to kick the ball, so on quite a few occasions she gets that shin-to-shin contact.”

With one of his top defensive players on the sideline, and sitting on a 0-0 tie against the No. 1 team in the state, coach Haire needed to make an adjustment. With a large hole to fill in the defense, Mariah Phister dropped back to the sweeper position and played well.

“I put a brand-new girl in there; Mariah [Phister] had never played that position before,” Haire explained. “She did excellent, I thought.”

Powell tried a different defensive formation against Cody, designed to take Genevieve Sauer off her game. The Cody standout and Northwest College signee has given the Lady Panthers fits in the past, but was a non-factor for most of Tuesday’s game.

“We went with something new to try to stop Genevieve [Sauer], because she’s just good,” Haire said. “I’ve scouted her in a couple of games this season. We dang-near had her shut down.”

The two teams were scoreless at halftime before Lady Panther forward Michele Wagner broke the stalemate with a goal in the first minute of the second half. Teammate Kayla Kolpitcke sent a crossing pass in front of the net and Wagner buried it for the score.

“Right off the bat at the start of the second half, it was pass, pass, cross and Michele [Wagner], with beautiful touch, knocked it in,” Haire said. “Kayla [Kolpitcke] moved the ball to the outside and made a cross that was just in a perfect spot and Michele was in the perfect position and made the perfect shot.”

Powell held the 1-0 lead for 18 minutes before the Fillies’ Jules Novakovich tied it up. With her goal, Cody gained a bit of momentum, peppering Lady Panther keeper Sydney Olsen with multiple shots. The senior was up to the task, however, turning away shot after shot and finishing with an astounding 27 saves on the game.

“Sydney [Olsen] was just about near-perfect,” Haire said. “She played pretty awesome. When I was told her save total, I said ‘Well, I need to double-check, that’s skewed.’ But that was 100 minutes of soccer to a top-tier team; that number’s not off. Our keeper and our defense was outstanding.”

Four minutes into the first overtime half, Sauer finally broke through for the Fillies, giving Cody its first lead of the game and scoring what would be the gamewinner.

“That was a beautiful shot by Genevieve [Sauer] to the top left corner,” Haire said. “That’s a shot I’ve seen her make 20 times. Defensively, we were actually marked up really well on her, but we were half a step behind. That half a step cost us a goal to a top-tier team. But we’ll learn from that.”

Cody did a nice job of keeping the ball out of their end of the field in the second OT half, sending the Lady Panthers home with the 2-1 loss. However, Haire said the Powell players kept their heads up — and he’s proud of what the team accomplished. The two teams will meet again in the season finale at Panther Stadium in two weeks.

“Overtime right off the bat was a win for us,” Haire said. “A 1-1 game going up against the defending state champs who are ranked No. 1 was pretty special.”

Powell will head to Riverton Friday to face the Lady Wolverines (4-8) — a game Haire said is crucial for the Lady Panthers to remain in the playoff hunt. Powell won the earlier matchup between the two teams, 3-1.

“Our focus now is getting in to state,” coach Haire said. “We feel we have the team to beat anybody, but our play-in game is going to be mad rough, no matter who we face. But first we have to beat Riverton. We have the confidence we can beat them. This is our season, it’s down to this.”

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