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Lady Panthers battle through injuries, weather for 2-2 split at invite

Powell High School senior Kiley Cannon dribbles the ball amid Newcastle defenders and the elements on Saturday at the Southwest Invitational in Green River. During the game, Powell players experienced rain, sleet, hail and snow. Powell High School senior Kiley Cannon dribbles the ball amid Newcastle defenders and the elements on Saturday at the Southwest Invitational in Green River. During the game, Powell players experienced rain, sleet, hail and snow. Photo courtesy David Martin, Green River Star

An injury-riddled Lady Panther soccer team suffered some more injuries over the weekend, but battled to a 2-2 record at Southwest Invitational in Green River.

Various players on the Powell High School girls team had to step into new roles amid all types of weather that ranged from sunshine to snow.

“I was pleased with finishing 2-2,” said PHS head coach Jack Haire. “We had a couple winnable games, one for sure and even versus Rock Springs we were in the game the whole game.”

Rock Springs 3, Powell 0

The first game of the invitational pitted Powell against 4A Rock Springs.

Rock Springs led 1-0 at the half. Powell held the Lady Tigers at 1 until late in the second half, when the Tigers added a couple of goals. The last goal came on a corner kick that started with 5 seconds remaining.

“It was kind of surreal to watch the ball fly from the corner and looking at the clock going from 5, 4, 3, 2, the ball lands, 1, and it rolls right into the goal or gets kicked right into the goal,” said coach Haire. “So as time expired they scored their third goal. And it was just wow, it was kind of interesting to watch it happen.”

At the same time, goalkeeper Melynda Davison took a knee to the head, which resulted in a concussion and put her out for the rest of the weekend’s competition.

“With Rock Springs I really felt we were close in the game, like we could have won the game. We ended up losing the game but we didn’t really get beat,” said coach Haire.

For the Lady Panthers, Joey Haire, Kayla Atkinson and Kayla Kolpitcke each took two shots for a team total of six.

Davison — who coach Haire described as an “awesome keeper” — had 22 saves.

“Our defense was working,” said coach Haire.

Davison had been filling in for Gabby Hirsch, who suffered a season-ending injury earlier in the year.

Coach Haire said that losing Hirsch, a three-year starter, had a big impact on the Lady Panthers, but he said the whole team is proud of Hirsch and excited for her to excel in her chosen career of nursing.

Douglas 4, Powell 1

With Hirsch and Davison out with injuries, and Sydney Olsen unable to join the team last weekend, that left Powell down by three goalkeepers.

“The most experienced goal keeper I have is a freshman, Michele Wagner, who is my starting center mid,” said coach Haire.

Wagner wound up with 10 saves in a 4-1 loss to Douglas.

“She was flying all over the place; it was awesome to watch,” said coach Haire.

Powell shut Douglas out until late in the first half, when the Bearcats scored in an uncommon situation, where a shot went off of a Powell defensive player and rolled into the net.

That made the score 1-0 at halftime.

Deep into the second half, with Powell still trailing by just one goal, the team suffered another injury.

“I lost one of my key defenders to an injury that put her out for the rest of the weekend, Joey Haire,” said coach Haire. “And right away they attacked and scored a goal.”

Douglas scored three goals in the last eight minutes of the game.

Kolpitcke, meanwhile, scored a goal for Powell, assisted by Millie Mendoza. The Lady Panthers had 12 shots in the game

Coach Haire said it was good to get to play Douglas, which is on the east side of the Class 3A bracket,

“I’m excited and hoping to see them later in the year,” he said.

In order to get into the state championship, Powell will have to win a play-in game against an opponent from the east — and as of now, that would be either Douglas or Newcastle.

Coach Haire said the goal of the season is to get to state and win a game there.

“This program has never done that,” he said.

After the Douglas game, Powell had lost two players for the remainders of the invitational. That meant the team had to readjust its players and positions some more; players had to step into new roles.

Coach Haire also said the team has had to do some combining as “we don’t have a JV team anymore.”

“We’ve combined teams and some of the JV players have stepped up and filled big shoes,” he said.

Powell 1, Newcastle 0

After playing against both Rock Springs and Douglas on Friday, Powell faced off against Newcastle Saturday morning. The team awoke to rain on Saturday morning.

“It was raining all through warm up and as the game progressed, it got colder and ended up turning to sleet, and then it turned to hail and then it turned to snow,” said coach Haire. “We had it all this game.”

For two hours, the players and coaches stood and played as various forms of moisture fell from the sky.

“That might have been the coldest I have ever been in my life,” said coach Haire, adding that the players were frozen.

“As far as the game, boy, ... we played a good game,” he said. “We played a really good game. We had lots and lots of shots.”

Because the conditions were so wet, and everything was soaked by the time the game was over, statistics were not able to be tracked very well.

Wagner pitched a shutout as the goalkeeper.

Coach Haire doesn’t know exactly how many saves Wagner wound up with, but he did get a note that read: “Michele Wagner, who is normally our forward, got in goal and did amazing; she blocked every ball in the Newcastle game and got us the win.”

Powell had one goal by Kolpitcke, assisted by Kiley Cannon.

“We were happy when the whistle blew,” said coach Haire. “But we really had lots and lots of opportunities in this game.”

Nobody was wearing a dry piece of clothing by the time the game concluded

Powell 2, Rawlins 1

The win over Newcastle matched Powell up against 3A Rawlins.

“After being so cold in the morning, it was still raining a little bit on this game, but it was a few hours later, so we were able to go back to the hotel, get some warm clothes on us and get some food in us. It was just a bit warmer,” coach Haire said.

Luckily, Powell went from white jerseys to black jerseys and a couple of parents did loads of laundry at the hotel to dry the team’s clothes.

Coach Haire said that, as a coach, the game was a blast. The team has been working with the mids and forwards on trying to go over defenders in the air if they can’t get around them on the ground — and that work paid off.

“Jaya Smith was about 10 feet from me, as she just had a beautiful breakaway on the ball, and the defensive line moved in front of her and I yelled, ‘Chip!’” coach Haire recalled, with a snap of his fingers. “She answered right to it, sent the ball right over and Kayla Atkinson came screaming through middle and put a shot right in the back of the net and it was just beautiful.”

About five or six minutes later, the exact same scenario played out: Smith chipped the ball right over the defense and Kolpitcke put the ball into the net.

Wagner, meanwhile, recorded 10 saves.

The Lady Panthers now sit at 4-5 on the season — a substantial improvement from a year ago, when the team had two ties and no wins.

“That’s a huge increase for us,” said coach Haire.

That improvement also comes despite all the adversity the team has faced this year, with injuries and players having to step up into new roles.

“We have a goal to be full throttle, injury free by the end of the season — so we can play the play-in game, win that, get into state and [then] it’s a brand new season,” said coach Haire. “And I believe we can compete there.”

The Lady Panthers have this weekend off from competition for Easter break. Powell will then host the No. 1 ranked Cody Fillies on Thursday, April 20, at 3 p.m. Cody won the Southwest Invitational in Green River.

Then on Saturday, April 22, Powell will travel to Worland to take on the No. 3 ranked Lady Warriors at noon.

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