The Panthers (4-5, 1-2 in the Northwest) continued their hot streak after a nine-day layoff between games. After starting the season 0-4, Powell has won four of its past five games.
“We knew that we could do it,” said PHS coach Isaac Reyesmejia. “We knew it in our minds and we knew it in our hearts.”
The first-year coach said the team, which has relied on significant minutes from freshmen, just needed some time to gel together.
“We’re finally starting to put it together,” Reyesmejia said. “Once you get the chemistry going, you’re going to get better.”
Now the Panthers seem to be hitting their stride and they showed what they’re capable of with the win over the Fillies (8-2, 2-1), who are ranked second in the state.
Powell now sits just one game behind Cody in the Northwest, but may not have the chance to jump the Fillies before the postseason.
The Panthers don’t play Cody again in the regular season and can hope only to tie their Park County foe. If the Panthers beat Worland on April 29 and then the Warriors turn around and defeat Cody on May 6, all three Northwest Quadrant teams would finish 2-2.
A division crown may be unlikely but Powell’s long-term goals are still attainable.
“Winning against a team that’s on top is going to give the girls a lot of confidence and it definitely proves to them that as long as we continue to work hard we can beat anyone at any given time in the state,” Reyesmejia said.
Powell lost to Cody 1-0 at home on April 3.
“After we lost that game by one goal we knew that we could play with them,” Reyesmejia said.
Cody’s only other loss came against No. 1 Jackson at the Worland Invitational.
Reyesmejia praised the PHS defense for holding onto a one-goal lead for 70 minutes.
“Our three girls on the back row just played outstanding defense,” Reyesmejia said. “Defense is going to win you games and defense is going to win you championships.”
Pratt scored in the game’s 10th minute.
Powell threw the ball in from the left sideline to senior Shelby Nicholson, who worked it toward the goal line before sending a low cross through the box. The Cody keeper tried to anticipate the ball’s path but the pass was deflected and Pratt found herself in the right spot to punch the ball into a wide open net.
“She was full of energy, running up and down and crashing the box,” Reyesmejia said of Pratt, who missed practices earlier in the week due to a family trip but didn’t skip a beat on the pitch. “She came in there and fit right in. She gave me 100 percent.”
Pratt remained in the game after injuring her hand during a collision with a Cody player.
“That’s just toughness,” Reyesmejia said.
Nicholson dominated the left wing for the Panthers in the first half, using her fleet footwork to bring the ball deep into Cody’s half of the field and then set up teammates cutting toward the goal.
Powell was unable to convert on any of its other chances, however, and the game was the defense’s to win or lose in the second half. The Fillies kept knocking on the door but Powell was able to keep it closed to secure the shutout.
Cody opened the second half with a shot on goal that was easily brushed aside by PHS keeper Gabby Hirsch.
The Fillies came back just minutes later with a rush that was thwarted twice by junior left-back Delaney Dent, and eventually cleared to midfield.
Cody kept the pressure on and forced Hirsch, a freshman, to make a diving stop on a breakaway in the 13th minute.
The Fillies were unable to get a shot on goal on two corner kicks in the 16th and 18th minutes.
The final real threat came in the 35th minute when a Filly player charged down the left seam, prompting Hirsch to come out of the goal and challenge a potential shot. Hirsch slid horizontally toward the attacker as Dent and senior center-back Carly Klein converged on the overmatched Filly, who was unable to advance the ball any farther toward the net.
Reyesmejia gushed about Hirsch, who was making just her fifth career start in goal.
“What more can I say about my freshman goalie?” Reyesmejia asked rhetorically. “She is looking more and more like a two- to three-year veteran. She was just so aggressive today.”
Reyesmejia thanked Steve Katz and Joe Wichman, who are fathers of Panther soccer players, for working with Hirsch during practice to accelerate her growth as a keeper.
The coach also reiterated his pride in midfielder and previous PHS goalie Sonya Montanez. The junior started the season as Powell’s keeper but came to Reyesmejia to suggest a change would benefit the team.
Montanez told her coach “I believe that the team would be better off if we gave Gabby an opportunity to take the goal,” Reyesmejia said.
The team is now stronger in net and in the field.
“I have been able to use (Montanez) on the field and she’s an asset,” Reyesmejia said.
The girls host the Buffalo Bison (3-4 overall) of the Northeast Quadrant at 5 p.m. Friday. Buffalo lost to Cody 4-2 on April 5.
|PHS girls' soccer schedule|
|29||Star Valley|| 3-1 L
|4||Worland|| 3-2 L
|7||Cody|| 3-2 L
|11||Worland Invite|| 1 W, 1 L
|12||Worland Invite|| 2 Wins
|22||Cody|| 1-0 W
|9||Star Valley||4 p.m.|
| Overall Record: 4-5; Conference: 1-2