After a solid 2-2-1 start to the 2019 season, the Powell High School girls’ soccer team stumbled a bit last week, losing 5-0 at home to cross-county rival Cody Thursday. The Lady Panthers followed that with a 1-0 heartbreaker on the road against Douglas Saturday.
“I think we’re playing pretty good, aggressive soccer,” said PHS head coach Jack Haire. “We’re not shying away from that style of play. But we have to learn to finish. We have to start putting the ball in the net.”
The Lady Panthers (2-4-1, 1-1 in 3AWest) won’t be back on the pitch until Monday, April 15, when they welcome Riverton to Panther Stadium. Between now and then, Haire said the team will regroup, take some time to heal and get back to work.
“We’ll get back after it this week, work on a few things with our defense, tighten it up just a touch,” he said. “As far as our mids and forwards, we’re going to be working on finishing shots. If we can start finishing shots, our standings will start to reflect that. As of right now, the teams that we didn’t want to be winning are winning, and we’re not. Suddenly that Riverton game is a must-win.”
Powell lost 2-1 against the Lady Bearcats (4-2, 1-0 in 3A East) earlier this season in a game that ended in an overtime shootout.
The Lady Panthers were hoping for a little redemption in the rematch Saturday, but an inability to find the back of the net continued to plague the team, as did a host of penalties that took the girls out of their rhythm.
“Some referees allow aggressive play to happen, while some don’t,” Haire said. “It’s a judgment call to how aggressive, you’re allowed to be. It’s hard for my players to decipher when it’s OK to do one thing, and then not the next game.”
The Lady Bearcats’ lone tally was the result of a first-half penalty called on just such a play, a free kick just outside the box.
“The ball was kicked and squirted through off someone’s leg,” Haire said. “Our keeper couldn’t reach it.”
A similar penalty was called just a few minutes later, giving Douglas another opportunity to score. The home team converted for what they thought was their second goal of the half, though after some discussion it was ruled the whistle blew the play dead before the ball found the back of the net.
“I asked the officials to please explain to me how it was considered a goal, and after conferring with each other, they disallowed the goal and instead awarded Douglas a penalty kick just inside the box,” Haire explained. “I was fine with that call, and fortunately for us, the penalty shot missed wide. So we thought, ‘Hey, we’re still in it, we have plenty of time.’”
Powell controlled the ball well in the second half, keeping the Douglas keeper on her toes with 12 shots on goal in the frame. None found paydirt, however, and the Lady Bearcats were able to hold on for the 1-0 win.
“We’re there, we just can’t quite finish,” Haire said. “Frustrating is a good word for it. I may not have agreed with all the calls against us, but as a team, we put ourselves in the position to allow the referees to decide the game. We can’t finish; we can’t shoot as much as we need to be shooting.”
For the first 20 minutes against the No.1 team in the state, the Lady Panthers gave Cody (7-1, 3-0 in 3A West) all they could handle, as neither team seemed able to gain an advantage.
All that changed in the game’s 24th minute, when a Cody shot on goal took a fortuitous bounce off the post, sneaking by keeper Mattie Larsen. The score seemed to open the floodgates for the Fillies while taking the wind out of Powell’s sails, as the defending state champs rolled to a 5-0 win.
“Cody, that is just a good team right there,” Haire said. “For the first 20 minutes, we were right there with them. I think we played our best soccer of the year in that span. We were controlling the ball, playing good defense. It just got away from us. I actually think Cody is better this year than they were last year, and that’s saying something.”
The Fillies led 3-0 at the half, and continued to roll in the second, scoring twice more to put the game out of reach. With the first chapter of the Park County rivalry in the books, Haire said the team now knows what it needs to work on to write the second.
“We have moments where we’re working together outstanding as a team,” he said. “We moved the ball well in the first half, our communication was where it should be. We just need to be able to play like that for 80 minutes. Once we do that, we’ll be tough to beat.”