Lady Panthers Tie 1-1 with No. 2 Douglas

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A Jaya Smith goal with just 11 seconds to play in the first overtime period gave the Powell High School girls soccer team a 1-1 tie against No. 2-ranked Douglas.

“That was an exciting game,” said Powell head coach Jack Haire. “The smiles on the girls’ faces, you can just tell they’re enjoying playing. We’re not losing to the top teams, we’re competing with them, and that’s infectious.”

In a game where the elements were as much a factor as the play on the pitch, the teams battled brutal winds to a 0-0 score at the end of regulation. The first 20 minutes of the game belonged to the Lady Bearcats, who, aided by the wind at their backs, peppered Powell keeper Sydney Olsen with shot after shot on goal.

“We were a little standoffish at first, I think,” Haire said. “They were a 7-2 team and first place in their division, plus they had the wind, so they came out on the attack.”

The Lady Panthers’ defense tightened up after that, moving the action back out to midfield and settling into attack mode for the rest of the first half. The coach moved Joey Haire from defender to mid prior to the start of the game, a move that payed off.

“I was up late the night before, just going over strategy on how to handle the wind and their attack,” coach Haire explained. “We talked to the girls early in the week about a formation change and worked on it through the week as a possibility. We did it, and it worked.”

Joey Haire had experience playing mid, having done so her freshman year. Watching her practice during the week, coach Haire decided to switch things up.

“In warmups and throughout the week in practice, she [Joey] was popping shots,” he said. “I just thought, ‘You know, if the opportunity arises, I want her to be in there as well with Michele [Wagner] and Jaya [Smith] and Kayla [Kolpitcke]. We wanted to put those players up front when we had the advantage with the wind.”

In hindsight, playing with the wind may almost have been a disadvantage, as shots that went airborne had a tendency to sail more than normal.

“The wind definitely made it entertaining,” coach Haire said.

With both teams unable to find the back of the net, the game went into the first overtime half knotted at 0-0. Haire said he was pleased with the focus of his players after the end of regulation.

“We knew we were playing good soccer, and we were competing really well with a top-tier team,” he said. “We felt really good where we were at, we knew that we were controlling the game, even when we had the wind to our face.”

Douglas had the wind to begin overtime, and with just over five minutes to play in the 10-minute half, they finally took advantage, scoring the first goal of the contest. But the Lady Panthers, not content to let the Bearcats ride out the clock, continued to create scoring opportunities. With 11 seconds left, Smith found an opening.

“Jaya [Smith] just powered through that defense,” Haire said. “The defender actually touched the ball. Jaya pushed around to her right side, and the keeper attacked the ball. She didn’t let the keeper get in the way, had a nice touch on the ball and found the back of the net.”

Powell had the wind for the second 10-minute period, but despite a number of quality chances, was unable to capitalize, settling for the 1-1 tie. Haire said as a team, the Lady Panthers are proving they belong in the conversation when it comes to the top teams in the state.

“As a team, I mean Kayla Kolpitcke again was just all over the place,” he said. “Sydney Olsen, just her leadership, she had a big game. She had one drop kick and it sailed pretty far, and I was telling her, ‘Put it on goal.’ We were crashing their goal, and Malia Hedges actually got there but their keeper was able to grab it.”

Haire also liked the team’s communication and ball handling throughout the game — something he hoped to bring into a Monday matchup with Worland. Powell shut out the Lady Warriors 5-0 two weeks ago, but Worland climbed back into the top five in state rankings with a strong showing at the Pinnacle Challenge Cup.

“The game against Worland will be the biggest so far of the year,” he said. “They’re going to have their two players back, and they’re going to have a fire under them. I hope we play as a team and communicate well. Our players know the importance of it.”

Results from that game will appear in Thursday’s Tribune.

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