A season of incredible highs and frustrating lows came to an end Friday for the Powell High School girls’ soccer team. Buffalo fought back from a 2-0 halftime deficit to down the Lady Panthers 3-2 in the 3A state play-in game.
“We had the game,” said Powell head coach Jack Haire, adding, “We just let it get away from us.”
The Lady Panthers opened the game using the same formation and strategy they’d used earlier in the week against Cody, and it seemed to be working. Senior Joey Haire scored in the opening minutes off an assist by Michele Wagner to give Powell the early 1-0 lead.
“We felt confident at that point; we were moving the ball around well,” Haire said. “We were just playing good soccer; we had Buffalo really frustrated.”
With about three minutes left in the first half, Lady Panther Jaya Smith found the back of the net on another assist by Wagner, giving Powell a 2-0 lead going into halftime.
“Jaya [Smith] popped a nice shot just out of reach of the keeper, and all of a sudden, we’re up 2-0,” Haire said. “We made a few defensive adjustments at halftime, just to shore up the lead. I’m not sure what happened once the second half started.”
Buffalo also made a few tweaks to start the second half, scoring a pair of goals in the first three minutes to tie the game. Powell tightened its defense, but with six minutes to play, the Lady Bison scored the game winner.
“They [Buffalo] managed to sweep one in through a couple of feet of our players, right into the corner of the goal,” Haire said. “Game over. It was not how I wanted the season to end. It still hasn’t set in quite yet.”
To add a bit of insult to injury, coach Haire and the Lady Panthers were unimpressed by the lack of sportsmanship displayed by players and parents alike on the Buffalo side.
“We were trying to play aggressively, tough and physical, and they were frustrated. Down 2-0 at halftime to lowly ol’ Powell? They took it to another level after that; it’s not cool,” coach Haire said. “I told my players afterwards I was proud of them for playing a clean game with integrity. It’s tough to lose, but especially like that.”
Emotions were high after the game, as coach Haire said the realization they’d played their last game hit players hard, especially the seniors.
“We feel like we had an incredible season. We still feel like we were a Top 5 team,” coach Haire said. “We just couldn’t get in with the draw that we had. But it’s the way the ball rolls sometimes.”
Haire said this team had a special group of seniors, and their loss will be felt next season, on and off the field.
“I’m just going to miss the girls,” Haire said. “I’m going to miss their attitude, gonna miss the smiles. As far as on the soccer field, we’re losing a key defensive player and a key goalkeeper [Joey Haire and Sydney Olsen]. We’re losing some talented kids. But on the other side of that, we have a bunch of freshmen that are wanting to play. They’ll be hungry for next year.”
Coach Haire said there will be a very strong nucleus of returning players who will help bring the younger players along.
“Kayla [Kolpitcke] will be a year older, Michele’s [Wagner] a year older, Jaya [Smith] will be a senior,” he said. “Jalie [Timmons], Sadie [Wenzel], having that talent and experience back will be huge. It just sucks for me as a coach to not be able to give that team what I think they deserve: to put a trophy up. I still can’t get over it.”