Lady Panthers receive postseason honors

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It was a season to remember for the Powell High School girls soccer team, with three Lady Panthers receiving postseason recognition for their play on the pitch.

Senior defender Joey Haire and sophomore forwards Kayla Kolpitcke and Michele Wagner were named to the 3A West All-Conference team, with Haire also named to the 3A All-State team. Powell head coach Jack Haire was recognized by his peers as the 3A West Coach of the Year. The awards were presented at the Lady Panthers’ Awards Night last week at the high school.

“I enjoy the end-of-the-year events with the players and the parents,” Coach Haire said. “This year was different for a couple of reasons. We did get more awards than we’ve ever got as a team, but we really did feel like the season was incomplete.”

Despite posting a 4-9-3 record, the Lady Panthers were rarely ever out of a game. That included a pair of one-goal losses to eventual state champion Cody — one in overtime. Though Powell just missed qualifying for the state tournament, opposing coaches took notice when it came time to choose All-Conference and All-State teams. Coach Haire said he hoped the team left the awards ceremony with a sense of pride for a good season.

“We didn’t get as far as we wanted to, but there were goals we had set, and we attained them,” he said.

Haire initially worried that Kolpitcke and Wagner’s age might work against them in the voting, as both the All-Conference and All-State teams were laden with upperclassmen.

“I think sometimes, especially with All-State voting, coaches have a problem with sophomores getting in,” Haire explained. “But I think they realized how talented those two [Kolpitcke and Wagner] are. Kayla was just a force, and Michele had something like seven goals and 12 assists ... She was a no-brainer.”

Haire admitted to having a “dork moment” when daughter Joey was named All-Conference, especially considering the competition.

“Getting through the Cody team, getting through Star Valley, through Worland, they have good defenders on those teams,” he said. “For Joey to push through that and make that team was a pretty incredible feeling as a coach and as a dad. That was pretty fun to experience.”

The Lady Panthers handed out team awards as well Tuesday, voted on by the players. Senior Sadie Hogan was named Most Inspirational, an honor coach Haire called “well-deserved.”

“Sadie was the girl this year that slipped notes into everybody’s hotel room,” he said. “Encouraging notes like, ‘You’re great, play hard,’ that kind of thing. It’s been four years of hijinks with her; she’s very special.”

Freshman Sidney Karst was named Most Improved, despite joining the team after the season started. A week into practice, Karst was in Haire’s office when he asked her how the track season was going, assuming she had joined the track team.

“She [Karst] said, ‘I’m not doing track,’” Haire said. “So I told her you have two minutes to go get shin guards and cleats. She looked at me and said, ‘Seriously?’ The other girls from the team that happened to be there took off running to find her some gear. Once that happened, she never looked back. I’m super-excited for her in the future.”

Joey Haire was also named Defensive MVP, while Jaya Smith garnered Offensive MVP honors.

“I’m happy Jaya [Smith] got an award like that, because she made the short list for All-Conference as well,” Haire said. “I could move her to center-mid, and she could control the game, no problem.”

Kolpitcke was named Team MVP, adding to her list of accolades on the evening.

“That she [Kolpitcke] was awarded MVP, that doesn’t surprise me,” Haire said. “She’s a game-changer. That whole front three of Kayla, Jaya and Michele, coaches have to game-plan for them. They’re that talented.”

As for being named 3A West Coach of the Year, Haire said he was incredibly honored and humbled by the recognition. Cody head coach Marian Miears led the charge to vote Powell in, and the rest of the 3A West coaches followed suit.

“To hear that from her [Miears], it was just really special,” coach Haire said. “Then the Worland coach voted for Powell and said, ‘Jack, what you’ve done with that program is absolutely incredible.’ To get an award from my peers, it just means a ton. We’re moving in the right direction as a program.”

Haire praised the work of assistant coach Stan Hedges for his part in the team’s success.

“It’s not me by myself,” he said. “Coach Hedges and I are a team together as a coaching staff — this award is just as much his as mine.”

Haire said he’ll now turn his sights to next season, with a number of camps his players can take advantage of this summer. He also wants to encourage younger girls to get involved in soccer.

“To the team, and to the future Lady Panthers, let’s not stop kicking the soccer ball,” coach Haire said. “We are going to be champions next year, but champions have to put in the extra work.”

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