April has been a tough month for the Powell High School girls’ soccer team, as a 5-1 loss to Worland on Thursday left the Lady Panthers without a win in its last four games.
“We were missing a couple of players, couple of injuries we were dealing with,” said PHS head coach Jack Haire of the Worland contest, adding, “We’re having a rough go, a rough time. But we’re going to keep our heads up and keep playing as a team.”
The loss dropped the Lady Panthers to 2-6-1 on the season, 1-3 in the 3A West conference. With just six regular-season games remaining and no regional tournament this year, Powell’s hopes of securing a spot among the top four teams in the West and advancing to state have reached critical mass.
“Honestly, right now we have nothing to lose,” Haire said. “We’re at a point in the season where our wins and losses are coming back to bite us. We have a couple of must-win games still just to make it to state. But we’re not giving up, it’s not in our nature.”
Worland (6-3, 3-2 in 3A West) scored two goals in the first half of Thursday’s contest, requiring a shift in formation by the Lady Panthers geared toward over-loading Worland’s defense. The new formation brought defenders up to play as mids and forwards; the downside was the shift created some defensive mismatches for Powell. The Lady Warriors scored three more goals in the second half to put the game out of reach.
Kayla Kolpitcke had the lone tally for the Lady Panthers, finding the net in the second half.
“That last half, we were playing a lot of new girls, got them some work time in,” Haire said. “Worland has improved since the last time we played them, so we need to give them their props. We’re not defensive-minded right now because we need to score goals. We’ll just keep working on scoring opportunities and how to take advantage of them.”
With its defenders playing up, Powell was able to generate shots on goal from players who don’t usually get a chance to put the ball on net.
“We had some defenders get a couple of shots on goal, which was fun to watch,” Haire said. “Payton Asher and Sidney Karst had really good games. Jalie Timmons was one of the defenders who would go up and play as a forward, because she’s fast and has a good foot on the ball. When we’re down 2-0 or 3-0, those are the times we say, ‘Let’s try something different.’”
First-year keeper Mattie Larsen continued to improve in goal, finishing with 12 saves.
“She [Larsen] had a fairly good game,” Haire said. “A couple of those goals she wishes she could have got to, but for the most part, she’s done outstanding all season long.”
With a rematch against defending state champion Cody coming up on Saturday, Haire said it’s time for his team to dig deep if they want to make a final push toward the state tourney in Jackson next month. Of the Lady Panthers’ six losses on the season, three have been by a single goal; the talent is there if they can only figure out how to finish.
“We’re all in this weird spot: We’re good, but we can’t win,” Haire explained. “And we’re all tired of losing, and we don’t know how to fix it. It’s a weird place to be.”
Few give Powell a shot against Cody (9-1, 5-0 in 3A West) this weekend, according to Haire, and that fact is not lost on him or his team. But the Lady Panthers were heavy underdogs last season when they took the top-ranked Fillies to overtime on their home field before losing 2-1. If Powell can play its best game Saturday, anything can happen.
“We have nothing to lose; we’re expected to lose the game,” Haire said. “With that said, we’re just going to go out and have fun, work on communication, work on ball touches. If we can communicate and make our first touch and our second touch count, I still think we can beat them.”
The Lady Panthers had a few days off for the Easter holiday, and Haire said he hopes they return to practice this week with a renewed sense of purpose.
“Hopefully the girls come back refocused and rested and ready to finish up the rest of the season,” Haire said. “And really, the most important thing there is to have a smile on our face when the outcome is done, no matter what happens.”