JACKSON – The toll of playing soccer three straight days for a second consecutive weekend was evident from the start.
The Cheyenne East and Laramie girls persevered through tired legs and more than a few bangs and bruises Saturday during the consolation championship of the Class 4A state soccer tournament.
As if 80 minutes of regulation weren’t enough, the Lady Thunderbirds and Lady Plainsmen extended the season taking a scoreless tie into overtime before Laramie broke the stalemate for the 1-0 win.
“We really came together at the end and the girls never gave up,” Laramie coach Raquel Clark said. “Everyone wanted to play for the seniors – all the girls we are going to miss. We did a good job of keeping playing on tired legs.”
The game-winner in the 97th minute came from Lady Plainsmen sophomore Helisa Watson – a reserve wing who provided a spark for Laramie with fresher legs. Junior midfielder Jayla Wulff sent Watson a diagonal pass to the left from the center of the field well ahead of Watson.
“I was like, ‘oh no, I’m not fast enough to get to this,’ but I knew I had to,” Watson said. “I have to give (the crowd) credit when they said to take it on the first touch. I did that and it went in. I knew the goalie was coming out and I had a better chance to shoot it right away.”
Most of the game was dictated by the midfielders battling for possession and the stout defenses that shut down the opportunities for quality scoring chances.
The Lady T-Birds (12-6) limited the Lady Plainsmen (10-9) to one shot on goal in regulation and outshot Laramie 16-6 overall. But shots on goal were at a premium with five for Laramie and six for East, the latter with more than several shots barely missing off frame or over the crossbar.
“Our kids came out and played hard,” East coach Rebecca Valdez said. “These games are hard to get up for because you are not playing for a championship, which the goal of getting to state is.
“I’m proud of our seniors – they’re banged up – and we left everything on the field, which is all you can ask for. Soccer is one of those games you can dominate the entire game and lose, which is kind of what happened to us today.”
Both coaches were optimistic with their preliminary thoughts about the successful seasons as whole.
“Not a lot of people gave
this team a chance at the beginning of the season and not thinking we would make it to state,” Clark said. “The girls just stepped up at regionals when they needed to, and I just can’t say enough how they came together as a team on and off the field. It was a great year for us.”
Valdez added: “Their biggest goal was to make it back to state. Part of East High soccer, it’s a legacy with a history of being a good soccer program. Last year they didn’t make it to state and the seniors’ goal was to turn things around, make it back here and make some strides. I think we have a promising future coming back to East.”
LARAMIE 1, EAST 0
Goal: Laramie, Watson (Wulff), 97th.
Shots: Laramie 6, East 16. Shots on goal: Laramie 5, East 6. Saves: Laramie 6 (Bershinsky), East 4 (Kershsaw).
Corner kicks: Laramie 2, East 4. Offsides: Laramie 1, East 0. Fouls: Laramie 10, East 14. Yellow cards: None.