Lady Panthers battle Buffalo to 2-2 draw

Smith, Wagner net goals in season opener


As one of the few teams in Wyoming able to play an actual game last weekend, the Powell High School girls’ soccer team opened the 2019 season on the road Saturday, ignoring the elements to battle Buffalo to a 2-2 tie.

The Lady Bison were responsible for ending Powell’s season last May in the 3A state play-in game, and head coach Jack Haire said the team was looking forward to the rematch.

“We had a good game; I’m happy with the results, although I do feel we had the potential to win the game,” Haire said. “We had a couple of shots on goal that were wide open and we just missed them. We were outrunning their defense; I thought we worked them pretty hard.”

Buffalo opened the scoring at the 14:09 mark, converting a penalty kick to take a 1-0 lead. With just over two minutes left in the first half, Lady Panther senior Jaya Smith answered, scoring Powell’s first goal of the season. The score was knotted 1-1 at the break.

Buffalo again took advantage of a handball penalty in the box at about the 10-minute mark of the second half, converting its second penalty kick of the game to take a 2-1 lead.

“One of our defenders tripped, and when she fell, her hand hit the ball,” Haire explained. “They called a handball in the box and the [penalty kick] was taken, and they were able to go up.”

Powell’s Michele Wagner brought the teams back to even several minutes later on an assist by sweeper Jalie Timmons, for the second and final goal of the game.

“Michele [Wagner’s] goal squeezed through the hands of the Buffalo keeper,” Haire said. “She actually got hands on it, but it popped through.”

Neither team could gain an advantage in overtime, and the Lady Panthers returned home with a tie.

“They were a talented team, and able to move the ball around well,” Haire said of the Lady Bison. “I think we disrupted it pretty good. Both of their goals came off of handballs in the box by new defenders, kind of handed to them. Our goals were shots on goal.”

Despite having just a few outdoor practices prior to the season opener, Haire said he was impressed with the effort his team showed at Buffalo, especially on defense. He credited Timmons with making the most of her first game as the team’s full-time sweeper.

“I’ve been coaching her [Timmons] for seven years, and she is coming into her own,” he said. “She’s been a solid player the last couple of years, but she’s really stepping up this year. I basically told her she can run the defense, and she’s just done an excellent job.”

Another defensive bright spot was sophomore keeper Mattie Larsen, who had “an outstanding game,” according to Haire, finishing with 21 saves. This is Larsen’s first season as part of the Lady Panthers soccer program, and she’s put in the work to earn the starting job.

“She [Larsen] is showing a lot of potential,” Haire said. “She’s a brand-new soccer player, very athletic. She’s wanted this from the first day of practice, staying after two or three hours to get shot on. And that wasn’t something I asked her to do — she wanted to do it to get better.”

Offensively, Haire said his front four worked hard all game to generate shots on goal, and Smith and Wagner were able to take advantage of their opportunities.

“Those front three or four, they’re so good, so talented,” he said. “When they work hard, they get shots. We were rotating girls in that front four, keeping it fresh.”

Haire said the team will work on its communication this week, especially with regard to passing.

“Our first and second touches, communication is critical. It’s crucial to the game of soccer,” he said.

The Lady Panthers travel to Green River this weekend for the Pinnacle Challengers Cup Tournament and “the goal is to stay healthy,” the coach said. “I don’t want to lose any of my starters this weekend, because we have an all-important game the following weekend against Pinedale.”

Haire said the Lady Panthers are curious to get their first look at Douglas in Green River.

“I’m very curious to play Douglas, because they may be a top contending team again; those Douglas girls are athletes,” he said. “It’s going to be interesting.”