With just one game remaining in the regular season, the Powell High School girls soccer team continues to search for an identity, as wins remain at a premium for the talented club.
The Lady Panthers (4-7-3, 1-2) traveled south over the weekend for games at Star Valley and Pinedale — their longest road trip of the season. Powell opened the season with a 1-0 win over Pinedale at Panther Stadium, but were the victims of a 4-0 shutout against Star Valley the following game. This time around, Star Valley eked out a 1-0 win Friday on a somewhat controversial goal, while the Lady Wranglers battled the Lady Panthers to a 2-2 tie the following day.
“That was a long weekend, a long trip,” said Powell head coach Jack Haire. “It’s just frustrating. We can’t buy a win right now.”
Star Valley 1, Panthers 0
Star Valley currently sits atop the 3A Southwest Quadrant at 8-6-2 (3-0-1 in conference), and knocked off No. 1-ranked Cody on Saturday, 1-0.
But Friday’s win over the Lady Panthers by the same margin had some on the Powell sidelines shaking their heads. With the score knotted at 0-0 at halftime, Haire liked Powell’s chances for the upset. But a questionable goal in the final frame ruined Powell’s shot at redemption, as the Lady Braves held on for the 1-0 win.
“The ball never hit the back of the net. It evidently went in between the posts, but I struggle with the call; my players struggle with the call,” a frustrated Haire said. “But Star Valley won 1-0. The referee’s decision is the referee’s decision.”
Haire described the play as a “crazy deflection” that keeper Sydney Olsen appeared to clear. The referees saw the play differently, however, awarding the goal to Lady Brave Liz Smith.
Until that point, the game was evenly-matched, according to Haire. Both teams were moving the ball well, with Lady Panthers Treva Robson, Michele Wagner and Jaya Smith firing multiple shots on goal throughout the game.
“Michele [Wagner] was breaking through and had a really good game,” Haire said.
Powell’s defense proved stingy as well, and keeper Olsen finished with 10 saves.
“Jalie Timmons had a wonderful game, played super-hard, even though she was injured,” Haire said. “Jaighden Rayment played excellent, and Sadie Wenzel was outstanding this weekend
But despite playing well on both sides of the field, the Lady Panthers were unable to find the back of the net. Forward Kayla Kolpitcke missed the trip due to prior engagements, and Haire said her absence was felt.
“Offensively, we just couldn’t get one in on them,” Haire said. “I think we match up really well with Star Valley, and hopefully if this whole state thing gets figured out, we’ll play Star Valley again.”
Lady Panthers 2, Pinedale 2
Despite Friday’s loss to Star Valley, the Lady Panthers entered Saturday’s game at Pinedale in high spirits, determined to start fresh.
“Everybody on the team felt confident going into Pinedale,” Haire said. “But that was a crazy game. Pinedale’s at the bottom of their bracket, we’re at the bottom of ours, and we always play each other really tough. But we felt confident and strong.”
Pinedale also felt strong, however, and took a quick 1-0 lead in the opening moments of the game.
“Pinedale had the ball to start the game, and made two or three quick passes,” Haire said. “The ball went to my left-side defense and there was a hand ball just outside the box. They got a free kick just outside the 20, and just like that, it’s 1-0.”
Lady Panther Jaya Smith answered with a goal of her own, off an assist by Joey Haire, to tie the game at 1-1 five minutes later. Both defenses tightened up from that point, until Powell took the lead with under two minutes to play in the half — on sophomore Rachel Kuntz’ first goal as a varsity player.
“Rachel’s goal was off a beautiful corner kick by Michele Wagner,” Haire said.
The Lady Panthers entered the half clinging to a slim 2-1 lead. The two teams continued their defensive battle well into the second half, but with about 15 minutes left in regulation, another controversy led to the Lady Wranglers tying the game. A disputed call down in the Pinedale zone stopped play for several minutes while the referees conferred, ultimately awarding Pinedale a penalty kick.
“My defense was livid, and rightfully so,” Haire said. “Everyone was fired up. So Pinedale took the kick and made it, and I was very vocal in demanding an explanation of what was happening.”
With neither team able to score in overtime, the game ended in a draw. Haire said he was impressed with how Pinedale had improved as a team, but called the tie “deflating.”
The Lady Panthers will now turn their focus to their cross-county rivals, as the Cody Fillies travel to Panther Stadium today (Tuesday). Game time is scheduled for 4 p.m.
Powell gave the No. 1 team all they could handle two weeks ago, and Haire said he’s confident the Lady Panthers can pull off the upset; a play-in game for the state tournament will follow on either Friday or Saturday.
“I would love for us to beat Cody ...,” Haire said. “That’s our focus right now. We’ve got a couple of tough games ahead of us.”