The Powell High School girls’ soccer team traveled south last weekend for a two-game road swing, losing 3-1 to Lander Friday, but rebounding Saturday at Pinedale to win 2-0.
The loss to Lander may have been enough to eliminate the Lady Panthers from the postseason; coach Jack Haire’s side could still sneak in, but they would need some help with just two games remaining in the regular season. Powell will host Lander Thursday, which will include senior night festivities; they will conclude the regular season Friday on the road at Riverton.
“I’m going to work on enjoying the time that I have with this group of girls,” Haire said. “Coach Stan Hedges and I have been with this group for five years now. We’re just going to keep working on building each other up, lifting each other up and encouraging each other to be better — better at soccer, better at life, better students. That’s what I’m going to look forward to this week.”
Due to weather, Lander (7-7, 3-5 in the 3A West) was the only team in 3A West that Powell had yet to face this season.
“Lander was better than we expected,” Haire said of Powell’s 3-1 loss. “It was kind of the same old story — we were playing decent soccer, but not enough to want it as bad as Lander wanted it.”
With offensive threat Jaya Smith still missing in action due to injury, Haire’s other attackers were forced to step up their game, though the Lady Tigers proved stingy on defense. Lander got on the board first with three minutes remaining in the first half, but the Lady Panthers responded: Michele Wagner tied the game off an assist by Jordan Woodford. The half ended with the teams knotted at 1-1.
“The girls put in a great effort in that first half,” Haire said. “Jordan Woodford made a nice pass into the box, and Michele Wagner popped right up the middle and put the ball right out of the keeper’s reach with about 10 seconds left in the half. So we went in tied, which was pretty exciting.”
The second half was all Lander, however, as the home team came out looking to put the game away. The Lady Tigers scored the game-winner six minutes into the half, then added an insurance goal 10 minutes after that. Powell continued to play hard, but couldn’t convert their scoring opportunities. The game, and perhaps the Lady Panther’s state tournament hopes, ended with a 3-1 loss.
“... It’s not like we got down or pouted or anything,” Haire said. “When you lose to a better team, it’s hard to get down on yourself. We played decent, but we do have to improve to keep up with those teams. We feel like we’re competing with them; we just can’t stay with them.”
Powell will have a shot at redemption Thursday, as they host Lander in the final home game of the regular season at Panther Stadium; it’s a makeup of a game that had to be rescheduled due to weather last month. Haire said the key will be to learn from the mistakes made on Friday.
“We just have to have our first and second touch working,” Haire said. “Besides the girl with the ball, we need to have players in available spots. We need to find open spaces on the pitch to be helpful to the team.”
With the pressure of a state tournament berth seemingly off the table following Friday’s loss to Lander, the Lady Panthers went into Saturday’s contest at Pinedale like a team just looking to enjoy the moment.
“It was almost like a relief off of us going into that game a little bit,” Haire said. “So when we went into Pinedale, we were just attacking. It was fun to play them. We were evenly matched in a lot of ways.”
The Lady Wranglers (1-10-1, 0-8 in 3A West) struggled to corral Wagner, who had seven shots in the contest — including one on a breakaway that just missed the mark.
“I don’t know how the keeper got to it,” Haire said. “She laid out and her foot got just enough of it to knock it away.”
Wagner did finally convert, scoring the only goal of the first half off an assist by Kayla Kolpitcke to give Powell a 1-0 lead at the break. The Lady Panthers kept the pressure on to start the second half, with freshman Kabrie Cannon scoring the first varsity goal of her career.
“Kabrie [Cannon] has had a few games where she’s had some pretty good looks without being able to sink one in, so it was nice to see her finally get one,” Haire said.
Any worries Haire may have had about a letdown following the Lander game were extinguished with the 2-0 win. He praised his team for going into the contest with smiles and upbeat attitudes.
“Kayla Kolpitcke was just a workhorse, of course,” Haire said. “Defensively, we got our shutout; Mattie Larsen had 15 saves. Maddie Fields had a heck of a game.”
Haire also praised senior Jalie Timmons, who was used as more of an attacker (mid/forward) than a defender in this contest.
“She’s having just a heck of a season,” Haire said of Timmons. “She just puts in an effort every game. She doesn’t ask to come out, she doesn’t need to be subbed. She’s a strong girl.”
The trip home was a jovial one, but Haire said the team realizes there’s still work to be done. State may be out of reach, but he’d like to see the Lady Panthers finish strong.
“Everyone was just in a happy mood, and it was a nice, long bus ride home,” he said. “We’re in good spirits, and the girls are looking forward to playing Lander again Thursday and Riverton Friday.”